by Andy Rauwolf
March 13, 2004
Dear Governor Murkowski:
What is wrong with this picture? Our local fisheries biologists have stated privately that they are opposed to the West Behm Canal herring sac roe fishery. Federal fisheries biologists think it is absurd. Sport fish biologists are privately opposed to it as well. And yet your office has been told that the Board of Fish based their decision on sound scientific evidence from ADF&G!
How is it that a small group of fishermen in Wrangell can propose that the West Behm Canal herring should be utilized commercially as a sac roe fishery and that this would be decided by the Board of Fish a couple hundred miles away in Sitka, well away from Ketchikan and any possible negative input from local natives, sport fishermen, charter boat operators, lodge owners, tour boat operators, bed and breakfast operators, subsistence users, local conservation groups, and long time residents who know only too well how severely depleted this resource has become? In spite of the protests of local residents over this decision, when the Board of Fish met later in Ketchikan it was obvious that the 'deal was cut' as members of the board turned a deaf ear to the concerns of so many.
The herring in West Behm Canal were depleted after a few short years of a bait fishery in the late 1970s when the amount of herring that were harvested averaged 400 tons per year. The quota set by ADF&G for this year is over 1100 tons, including their 'test fishery' in which they will take their 100 tons. Where is the common sense, Governor Murkowski?
The ADF&G is mandated by law under the "maximum sustained yield" principle to target every stock of herring that is struggling to rebuild and in doing so, this "sound science" has depleted this resource whenever and wherever the department has decided to have a sac roe fishery, with the exception of Sitka. Only when ADF&G recommends that an area be closed to commercial exploitation of the herring stocks can an area be protected, as they have done in Wrangell Narrows and Lynn Canal. There is something wrong with this law and it needs to be fixed.
Until that happens, and the ADF&G can come up with a plan to allow these vital fish stocks to rebuild to a semblance of historic levels, this fishery needs to be stopped. You are our last hope.
P.S. A renowned herring biologist stated that because of the topography of this area with the deep bays and inlets, there could and should be a huge abundance of herring stocks as in the past. By stopping this fishery today, there would be a chance for all user groups, including the herring fishermen, to reap the benefit tomorrow.
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