Fish on the menu: Kenai council discusses fish waste, fish policy

Posted: Friday, April 08, 2011

Kenai's City Council heard Wednesday night from residents concerned about everyone's favorite summertime topic -- fish.

Courtney Stroh, a student at Kenai Central High School, and Jim Butler, a local commercial fisherman, both talked about the city's role in managing and monitoring fisheries.

Stroh presented her Caring for the Kenai project -- called Respect Our Community (or ROC) the Kenai -- and asked the city for its support.

The council obliged.

"You have my full support," said councilman Joe Moore, a commercial fisherman and accountant.

The rest of the council either vocalized their support or gave a head nod of agreement.

Stroh's three-legged project focuses on fish waste, which she said is likely part of the bacteria problem on the beach and both unsightly and unfair for the community.

"Our river and our beaches are irreplaceable treasures," she said. Stroh proposed an educational campaign, jump-starting fish waste collection and regulating the waste. Stroh said her educational efforts could start this summer, if she can fund them, and would involve flyers and kiosks, as well as face-to-face campaign conducted by local youth. Each of those outreach strategies would encourage respect and awareness, she said. If users are more aware of the community and the impacts of fish waste, they are more likely to take care of it, she told the council.

Collecting and disposing the fish waste was Stroh's midrange goal, perhaps for next summer. She wanted to see fish cleaning stations on the beach, and said Kenai could look toward cities like Homer, where local processors grind and dispose of the waste, for ideas of how to get rid of it. Entrepreneurs could also play a role, re-purposing the fish waste for fertilizer or oil rather than just tossing it away, she said.

In the long-term, maybe two or three years from now, Stroh said she wanted to see the city regulate the fish waste.

In the immediate future, Stroh said that City Manager Rick Koch thought the city might be able to help with flyers for her educational campaign if a grant comes through. She also asked them to partner with her as she looks for funding.

Mayor Pat Porter, who participated via teleconference, asked Stroh to send her speech to the governor.

"I will follow-up when I get back," Porter said.

Butler was more focused on the regulatory side of fisheries.

At a prior meeting, Butler asked the city to present its management resolution at a meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Council. The city sent Koch.

"It made a substantial difference," he said.

The management council is involved in federal fisheries issues, and Butler said Koch did a good job of focusing on fairness for the communities involved.

"I think they were surprised at the level of interest from communities," he said.

Butler asked the city to stay involved, and continue participating in the discussions.

"We need to change the culture of the state of Alaska," he said.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.



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