National Park Service to retire some crab pot fishery permits

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The National Park Service is planning to spend about $700,000 to retire some limited-entry permits in the Southeast tanner crab pot fishery.

The 10-permit buyout -- intended to make the crowded fishery more profitable -- was requested by some crabbers and agreed to by the state and federal governments.

Some crabbers, however, are angry that the park service is buying what are called interim permits. Unlike permanent permits, interim permits can't be sold to other fishermen. And many of the interim permits are likely to be revoked as the state sets the final number of participants in the limited-entry fishery.

''I think it's a very gross misuse of government funds,'' said Norval Nelson Jr., a Juneau crabber who is on a crab industry task force that advises the state.

Crabbers also are upset that the buyout drastically reduced a fund intended to compensate them for lower permit values as Glacier Bay commercial fisheries are phased out.

The buyout is part of a $23 million fund to compensate people, businesses and communities for lost future earnings from Glacier Bay, which is part of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

A 1998 federal law ended some commercial fisheries altogether in the bay, closed some areas to all fishing, and left other areas open only for a final generation of fishermen.

Park service officials said the buyout is a response to a request by some crabbers during public comments on the draft compensation plan, with the state's approval.

''So we went with it. It's that simple,'' Tomie Lee, superintendent of Glacier Bay National Park, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The park service set aside $847,000 from the compensation fund to buy seven to 10 permits, to be chosen in a sealed low-bid process.

About 25 crabbers submitted bids, including some holders of permanent permits, Lee said.

But with the market value of permanent permits at about $100,000, none of those permit holders were among the 10 lowest bids.

Any money left over is to be equally distributed among Southeast tanner crabbers who applied for it. They are entitled to compensation, whether they have fished in Glacier Bay or not, because the state has said it will reduce allowable catches in the tanner crab fishery throughout Southeast as Glacier Bay fishermen retire. Lower quotas regionwide will reduce the resale value of their permits.

The park service has accepted bids of $35,000 to $80,000 each for 10 interim tanner crab permits, said Ronald Dick, who manages the compensation program for the agency. It leaves about $137,000 to compensate 80 to 90 other crabbers for future lower permit values, he said.

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