Subsistence proposals prepared for federal board's December meeting

Posted: Friday, May 12, 2000

SOLDOTNA (AP) -- A proposal out of Ninilchik that would convert all of the Kenai Peninsula's fish and shellfish on federal lands to unregulated subsistence fisheries is scheduled for a hearing in December.

King, red and silver salmon in the upper Kenai River as well as the river's Dolly Varden char and rainbow trout would be fair game. Those runs are prized by sport anglers. Commercial fishermen target the red salmon.

''We need to take back those fish that traditionally were given to the local residents,'' said Stephen Vanek, a Ninilchik driftnet fisherman who made the proposal.

''They've been allocated by the Board of Fish and this governor to nonresidents. Especially this governor,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News.

The Ninilchik Traditional Council and another man, Fred Bahr, made a proposal almost identical to Vanek's.

The three have been lumped into one, called Proposal 13. It was posted on the federal subsistence Web site this week and is up for public comment until June 16. That proposal will be aired along with 39 others by federal subsistence managers in December.

But federal managers already are calling Proposal 13 too broad, too vague and too risky.

''A proposal like that won't stand,'' said Tom Boyd, assistant regional director for subsistence management. Boyd, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, advises the Federal Subsistence Board.

''You can't allow everyone to fish without any restraints, because it simply doesn't make any sense, from a conservation standpoint,'' he said.

The federal board at the urging of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe declared earlier this month that everyone living on the Kenai Peninsula is eligible for subsistence fish and game.

That decision reversed a finding dating back to the early 1990s that the Peninsula's largest cities were nonrural and therefore were not eligible. The rural designation directly affects only federal lands and the waters flowing across them.

Kenaitze chairwoman Rosalie Tepp has said the tribe will seek a deliberative approach to find ways for its 939 members to hunt moose and take salmon for potlatches in a way that won't threaten the stocks.

It's complicated because any subsistence fishery also would be open to the Peninsula's roughly 50,000 residents.

Vanek said he sees no problem with that. His view of subsistence differs from that of the Kenaitzes'. He lumps in commercial fishing as a subsistence activity.

The 30-year commercial fisherman said he's trying to find a way for commercial fisheries to withstand increasingly restrictive state regulations. He talks about getting more fish into the hands of Peninsula residents, including some that could be sold.

''Subsistence doesn't mean getting something to eat,'' he said. ''It means feeding, clothing and housing your family.''

Vanek said he doesn't know how it all would work out but assumes the commercial fishing and Native interests could come to terms.

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