Resolution not in commercial fishermen's best interest

Posted: Friday, April 02, 2010

UCIDA was distressed to read in Rep. Seaton's recent newsletter that he voted in favor of SJR22, in opposition to the best interest of commercial fishermen in Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound and all of coastal Alaska.

Commercial fishermen in Cook Inlet filed action with the Secretary of Commerce asking for relief from the State's mismanagement of salmon stocks. UCIDA and other commercial fishing organizations across Alaska are put in a difficult spot when it comes to objective, scientific management of fisheries. Here's why:

Many years ago, the Federal Government transferred the day to day management of salmon to the State of Alaska. When this occurred, they said "here are the rules by which we want you to manage our salmon," and the State agreed. The rules are outlined in the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA), specifically identified as "10 National Standards".

1. Prevent overfishing while achieving optimum yield;

2. Use of best science available;

3. Individual stocks of fish managed as a unit;

4. Conservation and management measures shall not discriminate between residents of different states;

5. Management measures shall consider efficiency in the utilization of fishery resources;

6. Management measures shall take into account variations among fisheries;

7. Management measures shall minimize costs and avoid duplication;

8. Management measures shall take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities in order to minimize adverse economic impacts;

9. By-catch to be minimized;

10. Promote safety of human life at sea.

UCIDA is simply asking a judge to instruct the State and the Board of Fisheries (BOF) to manage salmon in compliance with Federal law.

Cook Inlet fish stocks are in trouble and are producing harvests at or below territorial times. Applying the 10 National Standards is our only hope for saving our salmon, industry and economy.

Rep. Seaton has mistakenly focused on National Standard No. 4, which speaks to non-discrimination between residents of different states. The Kenai and Kasilof River dipnet fisheries are out of control, with bag limits that are three times larger than the salmon harvested by an average family. Uncontrolled river access causes degradation of fragile dunes and grasslands and possible interference with historic beluga whale feeding patterns. The Kenai dipnet fishery remains open without sharing the burden of conservation or meeting of escapement goals.

The primary concern of UCIDA is that the application of the Federal rules designed to achieve optimum yield are being ignored by the State. Huge overescapements and underescapements are now the norm when they should be the exception. Sustained participation and the economic livelihood of our fishing communities and families are clearly at risk.

There are 2,500 commercial permit holders, crew and families on the Kenai Peninsula and many live in Rep. Seaton's district. Thousands of jobs and a huge sector of our local economy are currently at risk unless something changes.

Roland Maw

UCIDA Executive Director

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