Reader: Community not for sale

Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ricky Gease, director of Kenai Peninsula Sport Fishing Association (KRSA), recently wrote a Clarion column highlighting the economic benefits of sport fishing as opposed to commercial fishing (April 3). Interestingly, the article he quotes has no authors listed, so it is difficult to know what expertise the authors have or to direct questions to them.

However, for the purpose of this discussion let us assume the report is 100 percent accurate. The sport fishing community contributes more money to the local economy than the commercial fishing industry and therefore they should receive a priority of use in Upper Cook Inlet.

What is unsaid is that the sportfish community is made up of diverse groups — resident anglers, nonresident anglers who do not use a guide, guided nonresident anglers and guided resident anglers. Each group would contribute to the total in a different manner.

Mr. Gease suggests economic outcomes should strongly influence allocation priorities (since his whole article is about economics). Therefore, I would assume Mr. Gease would suggest the following in times of resource shortage and the absence of a commercial fishery.

The number of resident anglers should be reduced first as they tend to live here, bring no new money to the community, and, of course, fish caught would replace fish or meat they would buy in local stores.

The second group eliminated would be nonresident unguided anglers as they bring money into the community but do not pay guides and probably would come and stay for other reasons (like visiting family members).

The third group to go would be resident anglers who use a guide, and finally the last and surviving group would be guided nonresident anglers. This last group spends money for lodging, airfares, meals and guided trips. Therefore, in following Mr. Gease’s logic, the group we should be fostering to use the Kenai River is nonresident guided anglers, and we should do it quickly to gain the maximum economic benefit. Relative to personal-use fishing, we should create a nonresident guided personal-use dipnet fishery.

I think anyone can see the flaw in this logic. A healthy community is one that has diversity; is one that puts economic gains in perspective relative to other community values, and is one that respects their neighbor’s right to exist. A healthy community would not work to purposely destroy one group for the benefit of another — no matter the economic outcome.

Therefore, it is time for this community to say no to the KRSA and their desire to destroy a portion of this community. It is time to say enough is enough and we are not going to take it anymore. It is time for the political leadership to stop allowing misguided studies and misinformation to enter the discussions.

Finally, it is time for all of us to recognize that this is our community, and it is not for sale — no matter what price KRSA wants to put on it.

Ken Tarbox


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