ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state has banned the use of jet skis throughout Kachemak Bay, effective May 3. It is the largest jet ski ban yet by the state of Alaska.
It will cover the entire 222,000-acre bay from Anchor Point to Point Pogibshi near English Bay.
An earlier Kachemak Bay ban was imposed in July of 2000. It was temporary and covered only the state park, which accounts for roughly 15 percent of the bay. The new regulations make that ban permanent and include the rest.
Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Frank Rue said the move was necessary to protect critical habitat.
''The Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area is a highly productive marine ecosystem,'' Rue said in a written statement. ''Restrictions minimizing harmful disturbances in this critical habitat area is part of responsible management.''
Opponents of jet skis portray them as dangerous, noisy machines that startle nesting waterfowl and disturb people trying to enjoy the outdoors. Jet ski fans praise their utility and argue the state is discriminating against one type of watercraft.
''We think it's unfair,'' said David Ausman, president of the Personal Watercraft Club of Alaska. ''Thousands of boats do far more damage that just a few jet skiers. The state is taking the easy way out by banning an entire class of users.''
A statement released Wednesday by Fish and Game contended that jet skis are more disruptive to wildlife than most boats because they are noisy and can be driven at high speeds in shallow water.
The state said it received overwhelming support for the move, with 70 percent of public testimony in support of a total ban on jet ski use within the bay. The state held three public meetings and two formal hearings and received comments from 1,850 individuals and organizations.
''It's great to see the public process work,'' said Mako Haggerty, a commercial fishermen and water taxi operator. ''Alaska is a big state with thousands of square miles of recreational waterways, and we can certainly afford to set aside some areas for non-jet skiers.''
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