Rep. Eric Croft, Democratic candidate for governor, on Tuesday called for a moratorium on further fisheries rationalization in Alaska, and asked the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council to conduct a study of the effects of the current programs.
“The council has implemented not only rationalization, but full privatization of our fisheries,” he said in a press release. “Our coastal communities are suffering and the resource itself may be threatened. We need to understand the affects on Alaskans and on the resource before any new fisheries are privatized.”
Croft said that, if elected governor, he would appoint people to the council ready to impose such a moratorium and order a thorough study.
“This is the most serious threat to Alaskan fisheries in decades,” he said, calling rationalization, which he called “privatization,” the fish traps of his generation, a reference to a type of fishing allowed in Alaska prior to statehood.
In a letter to Stephanie Madsen, chair of the council, Croft noted “overwhelming testimony” at the June 6 public hearing opposing privatizing Alaska groundfish fisheries and called for the moratorium. A study, he said, should consider “the effects on Alaskan communities, on Alaskan fishermen, on competition within the industry, and on the fisheries resource itself.”
He told Madsen that, in his view, rationalization amounted to privatization that runs counter to principles in the Alaska Constitution, specifically a provision requiring that state fish, wildlife and waters “are reserved to the people for common use.”
Where fisheries have already been rationalized, local communities have suffered, he said, pointing to King Cove, whose mayor has said crab rationalization had cut local business income by 75 percent. Croft also pointed to a recent Alaska Department of Fish and Game report showing an eight-fold increase in discarded legal crab in the first season of the privatization program.
“We are just starting to get results” from the year-old crab rationalization program, he said in an interview Thursday. “Already there are pretty dramatic economic impacts on Kodiak, King Cove and other Alaska communities.”
Croft said he’d heard “the dock talk” was that rationalization had given processors a lot of power, that they were telling fishermen when to deliver, and favoring large new-shell crab over those with barnacles and other cosmetic inferiorities, a practice is called “high-grading.”
“We shouldn’t proceed with more privatization until we know what it is doing to communities and to the resource,” Croft said.
Croft said he feared looking back one day and seeing a vital resource put in the hands of outside industrial interests, a legacy he did not want to leave to future generations.
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