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Behm Canal Sac Roe Fishery Concerns Addressed by ADF&G
Concerned citizens say ADF&G more interested in protecting 'backsides'
by M.C. Kauffman


March 27, 2004
Saturday - 4:50 pm

Ketchikan, Alaska - In an effort to address local concerns regarding an Alaska Board of Fisheries' January 2003 authorization of a commercial herring sac roe fishery in Behm Canal, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game - in an unusual news release distributed Friday - reiterated its commitment to the conservation of the Behm Canal herring for sustained yield.

In response to Friday's ADF&G news release, spokesperson for the Ketchikan Herring Action Group Andy Rauwolf said, "The letter released to the media from ADF&G Commissioner Kevin Duffy is just another in a long series of examples that illustrate that this Department


1976 - Off-loading herring caught by an Alaskan gill-netter - Photo courtesy NOAA
is far more interested in protecting their 'backsides' than they are in safeguarding this 'most vital of all ocean resources', the depletion of which they [the ADF&G] have willingly presided over."

Commissioner of Alaska Department of Fish and Game Kevin C. Duffy said, "I recognize that the Behm Canal herring fishery authorized by the Board of Fisheries is troubling to some residents of the Ketchikan area, so I sent a representative of my office, Deputy Commissioner David Bedford, to meet with residents of Ketchikan and listen to their concerns."

On March 18, Deputy Commissioner Bedford met with more than twenty Ketchikan residents hailing from the sport fishing community, the commercial fleet, and the native community. "I appreciated that so many in Ketchikan took time out of their busy days to tell me how they felt about the Behm Canal fishery," said Deputy Commissioner Bedford.

Regarding the March 18th meeting held in Ketchikan, "The people in that room made it very clear that those herring belong to Alaskans and that the department better be cautious with the fishery," said Bedford.

According to Andy Rauwolf who is the spokesperson for the Ketchikan Herring Action Group, the meeting was poorly publicized and the group learned of the meeting by "accident". In a letter to Governor Frank Murkowski dated March 21, 2004, Ketchikan residents Lawrence "Snapper" Carson, Andy Rauwolf, and John Harrington wrote, "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."

Carson, Rauwolf, and Harrington wrote, "The 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", Carson, Rauwolf and Harrington said in their letter to the Governor.

ADF&G Deputy Commissioner Bedford said, "There are some in Ketchikan who support the Board of Fisheries decision to open a commercial herring fishery in Behm Canal because of the economic return to commercial fishermen, processing workers, and the community; while others oppose the fishery, fearing that the department will repeat mistakes made in the 1970's and permit excess harvests."

Bedford said, "Our management approach is conservative, so I think we are up to the challenge."

"I encourage the concerned citizens of Ketchikan to continue to hold our feet to the fire and make sure we live up to our responsibilities," said Bedford.

In authorizing the Behm Canal commercial herring sac roe fishery, the Alaska Board of Fisheries at a Sitka meeting in January 2003 listed a number of constraints to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource:

  • The fishery will open only if the total stock is 6,000 tons or more of mature herring.
  • The fishery will be permitted to harvest only 10% of the stock unless the resource substantially increases.
  • Areas near Ketchikan including Naha Bay, Clover Pass, and Tongass Narrows will remain closed creating a sanctuary for a significant portion of the spawning herring stock.
  • The fishery will not take place unless the department's on-the-spot surveys indicate that the herring stock will be sufficient to support the fishery and provide for conservation of the herring stock.

For 2004 the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates that total herring stock to be 9,366 tons. With a stock of 9,366 tons, harvest in the commercial fishery will be limited to 940 tons.




Open Letter: Stop the Herring Fishery... by Lawrence "Snapper" Carson, Andy Rauwolf & John Harrington


E-mail: M.C. Kaufman


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