Kay Brown

Kay Brown

Tell legislators: Protect Alaska’s fishing industry

A

 great untold story of Alaska’s economic success is our vibrant fishing industry, including commercial and sport fishing. If we manage these renewable resources well, then Alaskans will continue to profit from our fisheries. However, short-sighted decisions on state and federal legislation could reduce the health of our fisheries and associated economic benefits.

Since 2001, commercial fishermen in Alaska have landed over $13 billion worth of seafood. The value of commercial landings has more than doubled over the last decade, making fishing an important growth industry for our state. These figures don’t include the value of sport fishing, which brought in $446 million last year alone.  Alaska’s commercial and sport fisheries provide 63,000 jobs and generated $2 billion in income for Alaskans last year.  

The healthy fisheries that support commercial and sport fishing also create tourism opportunities for Alaska communities.  Unfortunately, our fisheries are at risk because of the Parnell-Treadwell administration and their allies in the state legislature.  

The very first Parnell bill passed by the Legislature (HB 80) allows cruise ships to discharge “partially” treated sewage and greywater in Alaska state waters.  That bill overturned a 2006 citizen initiative which banned such dumping. United Fishermen of Alaska, Southeast Gillnetters, and many other groups opposed HB 80 because the sewage and heavy metals released by cruise ships are harmful to our fisheries and our ability to attract tourism revenue.  

The Parnell-Treadwell administration is pushing legislation (HB 77) which would take water rights away from Alaskans and allow foreign companies to move forward with projects like Pebble mine which harm salmon fisheries.  Republican legislators are pushing other bills (SB 27, HB 47) to expedite Pebble and projects like Chuitna, which would allow wholesale removal of salmon spawning habitat.  

For Alaska, our fisheries are like the goose that lays the golden egg: Protect the goose, and protect Alaskans’ economic opportunities.

We need to take a hard look at the numbers. Last year our fisheries generated $4.7 billion in sales.  Why would the Legislature endanger that vibrant fishing economy on behalf of a few lobbyists?

The data show that 87 percent  of money coming in through recreational fishing comes from out of state.  Fishing isn’t just part of our heritage — it is good for Alaskans’ pocketbooks.

Fortunately, some legislators are doing the right thing to protect Alaska’s fisheries. In Juneau, Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, introduced legislation urging the FDA to reject genetically modified salmon, or “frankenfish.”  Sen. Mark Begich worked with other members of the Alaska congressional delegation to extend the comment period on frankenfish, and has introduced legislation to prohibit its approval by the FDA. Democratic state legislators have opposed efforts to weaken Alaskans’ water rights.  Democrats not only opposed the cruise ship sewage bill but also introduced amendments which would have required cruise ships to avoid discharging waste near estuaries.

Healthy fisheries are critical for coastal Alaska towns.  We need to protect those fisheries from special interest attacks in Juneau.  Working together, we can ensure Alaska’s fisheries continue to provide more economic opportunities for Alaska in the future.

Kay Brown is the executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party.

More in News

Teaser
Then Now: Looking back on pandemic response

Comparing messaging from 1918 to 2021

Damage in a corner on the inside of the middle and high school building of Kachemak Selo School Nov. 12, 2019, in Kachemak Selo, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Repair costs rise as school facilities deteriorate

About $420 million worth of maintenance is needed at Kenai Peninsula Borough School District buildings.

Golden-yellow birch trees and spruce frame a view of Aurora Lagoon and Portlock Glacier from a trail in the Cottonwood-Eastland Unit of Kachemak Bay State Park off East End Road on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)
State Parks to hold meeting on Eastland Cottonwood unit

Meeting will include update on Tutka Bay Hatchery bill

Renewable IPP CEO Jenn Miller presents information about solar power during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Company looks to build solar farm on peninsula

It would be roughly 20 times the size of the largest solar farm currently in the state.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Soldotna Trooper arrested for multiple charges of child sex abuse

He has been a State Trooper in Soldotna since June 2020.

This photo shows the Alaska State Capitol. An Alaska state lawmaker was cited for driving with an open can of beer in his vehicle that another lawmaker said was actually his. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Lawmaker cited for open beer fellow legislator says was his

Republican Sen. Josh Revak plans to challenge the $220 ticket.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
This 2011 photo shows the Taku and Malaspina ferries at the Auke Bay Terminal.
Costs add up as ferry idled nearly 2 years

Associated Press The cost to the state for docking an Alaska ferry… Continue reading

The Federal Aviation Administration released an initiative to improve flight safety in Alaska for all aviation on Oct. 14, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
FAA releases Alaska aviation safety initiatives

The recommendations, covering five areas, range from improvements in hardware to data-gathering.

AP Photo / Becky Bohrer
The Alaska Capitol is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. There is interest among lawmakers and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy in settling a dispute over the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend program, but no consensus on what the program should look like going forward.
Alaskans get annual boost of free money from PFD

Checks of $1,114 are expected to be paid to about 643,000 Alaskans, beginning this week.

Most Read