During a work session of the State Board of Fisheries last week, the board did not take action on requests to move their meeting on Upper Cook Inlet Finfish to the Kenai Peninsula. The meeting will proceed in Anchorage.
The board on Oct. 13 discussed requests received from local organizations and governments to move the meeting on Upper Cook Inlet Finfish to the Kenai Peninsula, rather than holding it in Anchorage. The meeting is scheduled to run for 12 days, Feb. 23 to March 6, at the Egan Convention Center.
Members of the board said they queried the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex for availability of the facility at the time of the meeting and were told the space was booked. Meeting spaces at the complex were used earlier this year for a meeting of the State Board of Game, but even were they available, a member of the Board of Fish said the space is insufficient.
The board did not consider any other potential venues.
“If the facilities were available, I would encourage such a motion to be made,” Chair John Wood said. “It’s really something this board should address and should somehow be fair to all the stakeholders throughout the state and throughout Southcentral.”
Included in the meeting documents are letters received from a variety of local organizations, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association and Paul Shadura II with support of the City of Kenai.
A letter from Borough Mayor Peter Micciche and Assembly President Brent Johnson dated Oct. 12 says “when more than eighty percent of the decisions made during BoF Cook Inlet Finfish meeting affect watersheds on the Kenai Peninsula, it is reasonable to make the meetings more accessible to affected residents by including the Kenai Peninsula in the meeting rotation.”
The borough’s letter says attending the two-week-long meeting in person in Anchorage is prohibitively expensive. It says other “interested parties” are accommodated with rotating locations.
“Considering what is at stake for many here on the Kenai Peninsula when it comes to the management of fisheries and other actions taken by the BoF, holding the meeting on the Kenai Peninsula this cycle is not only reasonable but necessary for building the level of trust necessary to work together on solving the serious challenges ahead of all of us.”
Chelsea Hendriks, interim executive director for the tribe, wrote in a Sept. 5 letter that many tribal members are stakeholders in local fisheries. Many of their members also, she said, have financial and physical difficulties participating in a meeting held in Anchorage. In recommending the board reconsider the location of their meeting, she also offers assistance from the tribe to the board in the logistic concerns inherent in hosting the meeting locally.
The “cost to participate” is also cited in the letter by the Fishermen’s Association. Their board of directors write that moving the meeting would allow “stakeholders to have a meaningful participation in the regulatory process which greatly affects their lives.”
Art Nelson said the board could consider locations on the central Kenai Peninsula as it prepares for its next Upper Cook Inlet Finfish meeting, scheduled for 2027.
For more information on the Board of Fish, visit adfg.alaska.gov.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at firstname.lastname@example.org.