by Lawrence "Snapper" Carson, Andy Rauwolf & John Harrington
Published March 27, 2004
Honorable Governor Frank Murkowski
In April of 1985, you wrote the attached letter to the Commissioner of ADF&G expressing your concern over the sac roe herring fishery. Your letter fell on deaf ears. Seven years later, in 1992, the Kah Shakes fishery collapsed after ADF&G repeatedly ignored the concerns of local residents when it was apparent that this stock was steadily being depleted.
Since the collapse of Kah Shakes, certain ADF&G biologist and biometricians defended their actions by publishing data that reflected that these stocks remained "healthy up until the time that they suddenly moved 13 miles west across open deep water just as they were about to spawn at Kah Shakes", which conflicts with credible testimony from pilots, local residents and Natives, and other citizens who witnessed this fishery going down over the years.
Attached is an affidavit from the late Terry Wills who flew as a spotter pilot for the ADF&G both prior to, and throughout the extent of this fishery. Note that his observations reflected a steady decline in these stocks until they finally collapsed.
ADF&G's decision to suddenly move the fishery to Cat Island, a native subsistence area, was illegal at the time because they moved the fishery outside the designated Kah Shakes boundary line and two miles from Annette Islands' spawning grounds. This action led local residents to sue ADF&G out of concern that two agencies were fishing the same stocks. Within five years, the Cat Island fishery also collapsed. Once again, ADF&G attempted to appease the public by stating that these herring moved to Annette Island. Contrary to their claims, their 'scientific' data is obviously produced by them in an attempt to cover-up their mismanagement as it is full of holes.
Last week, we heard that a meeting was being set up by ADF&G's Deputy Commissioner to address the concerns of an individual about the new West Behm Canal herring fishery. We decided to attend the meeting and were surprised to see several others there who also found out about it by accident. ADF&G presented a slide show with pictures and data clearly designed to reflect how healthy our herring stocks are and how well they are managed. We have tracked this fishery for over fifteen years. This data is pathetic and was previously presented to the Board of Fish in Sitka who based the decision to open West Behm Canal on this information. When the board met one month later in Ketchikan, anyone wishing to dispute the data or the decision to open this fishery was given just three minutes to talk. WE were also told by a board member prior to the meeting that if we were there to talk about herring, we were "wasting our time"!
The residents of Ketchikan have legitimate concerns about the depleted herring stocks. Your attached letter to Snapper dated June 10, 2003 reflects your concern as well. The response form Commissioner Collingsworth to your letter in 1985 is a carbon copy of the response which we received from Commissioner Carl Rosier in 1993, just after the collapse of Kah Shakes and prior to the collapse of Cat Island. This fishery must be stopped. A through investigation of ADF&G's management over this resource is imperative and must be conducted in order to prevent further catastrophic results from occurring.
ADF&G's method of using fish finders to determine the 'harvestable' biomass on the spawning grounds is arbitrary and only a best guess approach open to a significant margin of error, contrary to what their biologist would have you believe. Also, who determined that a 6,000 ton threshold is conservative in lieu of the fact that they began the sac roe fishery on depressed herring stocks?
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