Government to pay fishermen ousted from Glacier Bay

Posted: Sunday, October 07, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The National Park Service expects to pay several hundred people and towns for changes caused by commercial fishing restrictions in Glacier Bay.

The agency released its final plan last week for spending the $23 million set aside by Congress in 1999 to compensate fishermen and others harmed by fishing restrictions, said Tomie Lee, superintendent of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

A 1998 law closed part of Glacier Bay to commercial fishing. The rest of the bay is open only during the lifetimes of certain eligible halibut, salmon and Tanner crab fishermen. The king crab and ground fish fisheries also were closed.

Congress appropriated $8 million separately to buy out Dungeness crabbers who worked in the bay.

Glen Woods, general manager for Pelican Seafoods, said those who are compensated will move away and the local economy will shrink.

''There's no way to accurately assess the losses. Really, this is going to devastate our region for the long term,'' said Woods.

Under the park service's formula, about 30 percent of the compensation will go to commercial fishing permit holders and 12 percent to crew members.

Processors will get 25 percent, 6 percent goes to their workers, and 11 percent to other businesses affected.

Communities affected by the new regulations would receive 15 percent. One town expected to apply is Pelican, a community of about 160 on Chichagof Island.

''The money is a kind of short-term fix for a long-term problem,'' said Pelican Mayor Kathie Wasserman. ''This addresses a need, but it doesn't suddenly make it all go away.''

Wasserman said reopening commercial fishing would be an adequate compensation.

U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, said a lengthy study by the Interior Department ''should provide ammunition to revisit the decision to phase out commercial fishing in the bay.''

Meanwhile, fishermen, processors and businesses must provide documentation of their earnings from the bay's fisheries to receive compensation. Claims for compensation must be postmarked or filed at the Park Service offices in Juneau or Gustavus by Jan. 28, 2002.


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