Federal board gives local fisheries managers more authority

Posted: Thursday, June 01, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A federal fisheries board gave its local managers more authority Wednesday to make decisions on Alaska's subsistence fisheries.

The Federal Subsistence Board's decision will allow local managers to open or close subsistence fisheries.

''We recognize the board must delegate because we can't provide the timely responses critical for resource conservation or subsistence users,'' board Chairman Mitch Demientieff said in a statement.

Bill Knauer, a subsistence specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, said the move will result in better management of fisheries, particularly when quick decisions are needed on opening or closing salmon runs.

The board will continue to handle other types of decisions concerning harvest limits, permits and gear restrictions.

The federal government has the authority to regulate fishing in most Alaska waters to preserve a subsistence priority for rural Alaskans under the so-called ''Katie John'' ruling made by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1995.

The federal government took over subsistence fishing management last year after eight Republican senators blocked a statewide vote to amend the state constitution, which guarantees equal access to fish and game.

Last month, the board granted a request made by the Kenaitze Indian tribe and made the entire Kenai Peninsula, with its 50,000 residents, rural for subsistence purposes.

Since then, other Alaska communities, including Douglas, Eklutna and Adak, have asked that their nonrural status be reconsidered.

''We will be seeing more of these conflicts coming up,'' said Bob King, spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles who is strongly opposed to federal management of Alaska fisheries.

The board's decision applies only to the 2000 fishing season and is a stopgap measure until new protocols developed with the state are in place.

Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, said greater cooperation between the state and the federal government on subsistence issues is to be expected given the federal takeover.

''We all want sustainable yield and no harm to come to the different fish stocks,'' she said.

King said the board's decision to delegate authority to its field managers makes sense, but the state continues to be opposed to federal management of state fisheries.

''It should be a state responsibility,'' he said.

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