Fog at Unalaska airport keeps fishery council members from meeting

Posted: Thursday, June 06, 2002

UNALASKA (AP) -- The North Pacific Fishery Management Council's opening day meeting was canceled Wednesday after weather prevented most members from reaching Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands.

More than half the council was stuck in Anchorage 800 miles way, unable to land because of fog blanketing the airport.

The six council members managed to make it in Wednesday night.

Chris Oliver, council executive director, arrived Tuesday after trying for two days on three planes, waiting for fog to lift.

The first two Alaska Airlines jet flights circled Unalaska and returned to Anchorage on Monday. On Tuesday, a small commuter plane circled Unalaska, backtracked 200 miles to Cold Bay for a six-hour layover, then was able to land in Unalaska. Oliver was accompanied on the PenAir flight by council members Stephanie Madsen, Bob Penney and Dennis Austin.

The council is considering a plan to restructure the Bering Sea crab fishery with a quota-based system.

''This is one of the most critical issues we've dealt with in a long, long time,'' Oliver said.

Fishermen fear processor quotas could lead to artificially low prices.

Processors say quotas are necessary to protect their investments.

The council has budgeted four days for crab rationalization discussions, Oliver said.

Final approval of any rationalization plan will likely require the approval of Congress.

Gov. Tony Knowles supports a ''three pie'' system of quotas for fishermen, processors and communities, according to his representative on the council, Kevin Duffy of Juneau.

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