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Fish Factor

UFA Gives Thumbs Down To Plan To Dole Out DAP's For Groundfish
By Laine Welch


October 31, 2005

United Fishermen of Alaska - now one of the nation's largest fisheries groups - gave a big thumbs down to a plan that would dole out DAP's for groundfish to what many feel is a privileged few. Senate Bill 113 has been one of the most hotly contested fish issues since it was proposed during last year's legislative session by Senator Ben Stevens of Anchorage. The bill proposes a system of Dedicated Access Privileges for fishermen based on their historical groundfish catches in state water fisheries. DAP's are de rigueur of federal managers who are "rationalizing" many fisheries under their purview, meaning three to 20 miles offshore. The state is struggling to develop a framework that will mesh with the federal plan.
jpg Laine Welch

SB 113 originally had UFA's backing, but the measure has since become loaded with too much baggage, said Joe Childers of the Western Alaska Gulf Fishermen's group. "Right now it does not appear to be a likely candidate to help resolve the parallel fishery issue. It's become more of a lightening rod," Childers said at UFA's annual meeting last week in Cordova.  Childers said SB 113 started out fairly simple, but quickly became very complicated and too "enabling" for the state's limited entry commission, the Board of Fisheries and other policy makers. Many people also strongly objected to the way in which the SB 113 came from "the top down" in Juneau, and seemed to side step input from local communities and advisory boards.

"We do support the concept of rationalization in Gulf groundfish. But we'd rather come up with something that would take us back to the original concept - which was to allow an opportunity for people to come forward with proposals to the Board of Fish, and the Board could then act on that," Childers said.  

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Kodiak), who as co-chair of the House Fisheries Committee has had the bill in her lap since adjournment of the legislature in May, said she had seen the writing on the wall. "Knowing that UFA no longer supports this bill reinforces my own reservations," LeDoux said.   

UFA also will become much more active in opposing another new federal favorite: offshore fish farming," said UFA president Bobby Thorstenson. "At same time, we'll be working with Senator Ted Stevens to at least keep them out of Alaska, and to make sure reasonable provisions are included so they don't wipe out our industry."

UFA, which claims 32 percent of its 31 member groups are halibut fishermen, supports
implementing halibut quota shares for charter operators, Thorstenson said. He added that UFA also plans to work more directly to resolve air freight transportation difficulties, especially with fresh fish shipments. As always at its annual meeting, UFA selected its Person of the Year: Senator Lisa Murkowski. "We are proud of the job she's done and proud of the fact that UFA was the group that pushed her to the top," Thorstenson said.
DEC DOES GOOD - For all the flack it took over last year's proposal to allow mixing zones in waters where fish spawn, DEC received nary a nod when it tossed out its original plan and began anew. Two weeks ago, the state Division of Environmental Conservation announced that its proposed law last year had caused too much confusion and misunderstanding. DEC offered a revised version and launched the start of a new opportunity for public review.

Mixing zones are stretches of natural water bodies where flushings from mines, power companies, seafood processing or sewage treatment plants are diluted with clean water. Mixing zones have been used in Alaska for 30 years, but what raised public outcry was the plan to lift the ban that keeps them out of rivers and streams where fish spawn.

DEC's new plan retains the ban, while at same time allowing for three "very limited" exceptions, said Lynn Kent, director of DEC's water division. In order to qualify for an exemption, an applicant would have to demonstrate they have complied with the 19-part test that applies to all mixing zones. In addition, applicants would have to prove that the timing and make up of the discharges would not hurt fish "now or in future generations," Kent said. If a mixing zone does harm spawning or rearing of fish, the operator would have to have a "mitigation" plan approved by the Dept. of Natural Resources and ADF&G. Other changes extend mixing zone protections to lakes. The new plan also is expanded to include shellfish.

DEC's back track was still not enough to quell some skeptics. "They're just putting lipstick on a pig by trying to gussy up their old proposal to add toxic pollution to Alaska's salmon streams," said Bob Shavelson of the environmental group Cook Inlet Keeper. "The fact is, they don't want sound science guiding policies under this administration," he told the Anchorage Daily News.

Deputy Commissioner Dan Easton said DEC is convinced the final regulation will be "a better public policy," and that the agency will "try and do a better job of helping people understand it this time around." DEC's mixing zone proposal will remain open for public review and comment through December 19. Workshops are scheduled for late November in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.
TANNER CRAB COMIN' - Kodiak crabbers will compete for just over two million pounds of bairdi Tanners when the fishery opens in mid January, a boost from 1.75 million last season. It's the highest catch limit in five years (although well below the more than 30 million pounds taken in the late 1970's) - but state managers caution that harvests could dip in coming years due to fewer small crab recruiting into the fishery.

The Chignik district will squeak open again for the second time since 1988, with a small harvest of 200,000 pounds, down by half. Likewise, a small Tanner crab harvest of 290,000 pounds will occur in the western section of the South Peninsula district; the eastern section will remain closed. Fishery managers will announce the status of a Tanner opener for two bays near Dutch Harbor in about a week. Combined with the Bering Sea Tanner crab quota of 1.62 million pounds ­ the first harvest since 1996 - the total bairdi Tanner take for Alaska this season could top 4 million pounds.

Bairdi is the larger cousin of the more abundant opilio Tanner crab, better known as snow crab.  Here is a bit of Tanner trivia:  Tanner crab is spelled with a capitol T, because it was discovered by and named after Lieutenant Zera Luther Tanner, commander of the research vessel Albatross which explored Alaska waters from 1888 to 1893.


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. Her Fish Factor column appears weekly in over a dozen papers and websites. Her Fish Radio programs air on 27 stations across Alaska.


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