Qualifications proposal irks members

Posted: Friday, February 24, 2006

A last-minute proposal to create qualification standards for Alaska Department of Fish and Game advisory committees irked committee members in Kenai on Wednesday night.

The proposal is unnecessary because the integrity of the committee is created when the community votes to elect members, said Joe Connors, who is on the Kenai-Soldotna committee.

“That’s all the screening you need,” said committee chair Gary Dawkins.

Qualifications listed in the Fish and Game proposal would not allow members convicted and fined more than $1,000 or imprisoned for more than five days for a sport, subsistence or personal-use fishing or hunting violation, or fined more than $3,000 for a commercial fishing violation.

The qualifications also would prohibit members convicted of a felony in the last five years.

Although the proposal’s list included some qualifications members said they would support, such as requiring a member to live within the committee’s jurisdiction, they were not pleased with the proposal as a whole, questioned enforcement logistics and ultimately decided to write a letter in opposition to the proposal.

Although Connors did not identify anyone specifically, he said the proposal was a knee jerk reaction to member issues on the Anchorage advisory committee.

“It’s pointed at individuals, which is bad public policy,” said committee member Paul Shadura.

The committee also ad-dressed a proposal on halibut fishing regulations it had started discussing last week. The proposal would prohibit halibut charter vessel operators and crew members from keeping fish caught while clients are on board and limit the number of fishing lines to the number of clients on board.

The proposal was written to address exceedances of federally approved guideline harvest levels for halibut by sport fisheries.

However, exceedances have not been an issue in the Gulf of Alaska, said committee member Mel Erickson.

In addition, Erickson said Fish and Game has no authority in halibut allocation issues and that he felt the department was using the proposal as a back door to get into halibut allocation, a federally regulated fishery.

Other members also objected to the proposal for the same reasons and the committee voted to oppose it.

Members enthusiastically supported a proposal to create an experimental commercial dogfish fishery.

“I just personally know there’s gobs and gobs of these dogfish out there, “ said committee member Dyer VanDevere.

Although some questioned the marketability of the fish others said overseas markets would be easy to find, and many took part in dogging the small shark.

“Those dogfish are a pain in the butt,” Erickson said. “I’d like to get rid of as many of them as possible.”

The committee also supported Fish and Game proposals to thin out some predator populations in the state.

Predator management is important part of maintaining healthy ungulate populations, committee members said.

Members drew not only on each other, but on community members attending Wednesday’s meeting for insight.

Approximately 10 people filtered in and out of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association Building, where the meeting was held, to listen and offer their views on proposals being considered. The first part of the meeting was spent listening to comments from the public.

The number of people who have attended recent meetings is way up from previous meetings, Dawkins said.

Many people said they would like to see beaches reopened to subsistence setnet fishing, and the committee’s subsistence member, Tim O’Brien, agreed to work on a proposal to address their concerns.

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