Poll shows pessimism on fisheries future

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A poll released Wednesday by an environmental coalition says Alaskans are leery of the loss of fishing industry jobs and wildlife in the oceans and pessimistic about the future of state fisheries.

On the whole, these results suggest that the condition of Alaska's oceans is one of the top concerns for Alaska residents today, said Francine Bennis, coordinator of the Alaska Oceans Network.

The poll, conducted for the group by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates, of Santa Monica. Ca, queried 500 Alaskans by phone in mid-February. Alaska Oceans Network paid for the poll, which had a 4.4 percent margin of error.

Respondents said their top priorities for fisheries management included protecting fish and wildlife in the oceans and ensuring the future sustainability of the fisheries.

Two commercial fisheries representatives in town for the North Pacific Fishery Managment Council meeting, commented on the poll.

''Clearly Alaska residents who responded (to the poll) were worried about loss of jobs in the fishing industry,'' said Brent Paine, executive director of United Catcher Boats. ''Groups like this are responsible for putting the fishing industry out of business,'' said Paine, whose organization represents 65 commercial fishing vessels.

Jeff Stephan, spokesman for the United Fishermen's Marketing Association at Kodiak, said priorities for fishery management expressed by those polled were no surprise. Protecting fish and wildlife in Alaska's oceans and ensuring the future sustainability of Alaska's fisheries ''are worthy goals,'' he said.

Most of the wildlife is dying because of food stress, said Larry Merculieff, coordinator for the Bering Sea Council of Elders, an oceans network member. Over a 20-year period, 12 billion pounds of fish caught incidentally to the targeted catch has been thrown overboard in Alaska coastal waters, ''strip mined out of the ocean on the U.S. side,'' said Merculieff. ''I don't know how anyone can say this is not having an effect.''

While the poll was being released in midtown, the federal fishery council's April session was underway downtown. The council, meeting through Sunday, is expected to make a final decision on proposed individual fishing quotas for halibut charter boats.

The council also is reviewing Steller sea lion protective measures for the second half of 2001.

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