Editor’s Note: The following letter was addressed to Gov. Bill Walker and submitted for publication.
As an Alaska resident, commercial fisherman throughout the 1970s and early ’80s and a sports fisherman until present, I have observed a shift in the Alaska fishery which made a dramatic rebound in halibut and salmon fisheries post the implementation of the 200-mile limit under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. Since that time the offshore commercial trawl/at-sea processing fleet has capitalized to the point where the current efforts to harvest targeted sole, cod and pollock with the “bycatch” of king salmon, halibut, king and tanner crab being ground up and returned to the ocean as a waste product.
The current status of the North Pacific and Bearing Sea fishery is very similar to the conditions faced by Alaska prior to the implementation of the 1976 Fishery Conservation Act with the exception being that the foreign fleet has been replaced by an American trawl/at-sea processor fleet which have been left in control of the fishery in which they participate through the North Pacific Management Council. Note that the foreign trawl fleet retained all of their catch without waste.
Gov. Walker, this situation has evolved to the point of sacrificing shore-based Alaska commercial, sports and subsistence fisheries for the benefit of Seattle-based, offshore trawl/at-sea processors who waste valuable fishery resources as “bycatch.”
Wasting of harvested fish (and game) is considered “wanton waste” by Alaska Law has led to a fishery disaster in Alaska. I have not witnessed positive action by previous Alaska governors on this matter. I request that you enforce the intent of Alaska law set up by the framers the Alaska Constitution.