Like it or not, perception is reality.
And the perception of many on the Kenai Peninsula is that the Alaska Board of Fisheries is too political, that the board's actions often advance an agenda other than the wise stewardship of the state's vast fish resources.
Granted, the board has a tough, if not impossible, job. Anything it does or doesn't do won't make everyone happy.
The perception that it is a political body, however, colors every action the board takes; particularly, it seems, on the peninsula.
Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, has introduced a measure designed to take away the perception of politics behind board appointments. In its current form, the bill would designate the seven seats on the board -- two going to commercial fishers, two going to sport fishers, two going to subsistence fishers and one member named at large.
The designees would have to have at least five years of active participation in commercial, sport or subsistence fisheries to qualify for appointment. Currently the governor appoints members of the board, but without specific seats going to specific user groups.
Scalzi's bill won't cure all the state's fishing woes, but it could help diminish the perception that the board's actions are political.
At the least, Scalzi's bill will generate a healthy discussion about whether the fish board as it exists today is in the best interest of the state's fisheries of if there may be a better way to do things.
It's a discussion the gubernatorial candidates should participate in. Alaskans need to know if the next governor of Alaska has ideas to change how fisheries are managed or if that person thinks the status quo should be maintained.
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