Editors note: This story has been edited to delete comments from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association president about testimony from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. Ricky Gease, executive director or KRSA, said the association did not provide testimony about having the Board of Fisheries meetings in Anchorage.
After 18-plus years of holding Alaska Board of Fisheries meetings involving mostly Kenai and Kasilof River salmon fishing issues anywhere but near the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, the BOF has once again voted to hold the next round of meetings, which will be held in early 2017, in Anchorage.
Gov. Walker campaigned with Upper Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishermen before the election with assurances that he would do all he could to ensure the next meeting would be held on the Kenai Peninsula.
Gov. Walker sent a letter to the board in October urging them to reconsider a previous vote to hold the meetings in Anchorage.
“It will have been 18 years since a meeting was held in the area where much of the fishing takes place,” Walker wrote. “I recognize other users live in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and throughout other parts of Alaska. However, as a courtesy to those who live and work and fish on the Peninsula, there should be an opportunity to participate in a board of fisheries meeting close to home on some occasion.”
Last week at the Bristol Bay meetings, held in Anchorage — like most BOF meetings — the board held a final vote at 5-2 to decline the governor’s request.
Upper Cook Inlet BOF meetings take two weeks, and come at significant expense to people not based in Anchorage or the Mat-Su.
United Cook Inlet Drift Association, which represents almost half of the 570 drift permit holders in UCI, estimates that it spent at least $30,000 to send staff and UCIDA members to the last round of meetings in 2013, nearly $17,000 of that on hotel rooms alone. The rest was in meals, travel, staff and office expenses.
Other costs include preparation time, getting the right people to the right committee meetings at the right time, which would not be nearly as cumbersome if the meetings were held in Kenai.
Those numbers are just UCIDA expenses, not personal expenses paid by commercial fishermen who attended the meetings.
Eighty percent of UCI drift permits are held by Alaska residents, most of whom live on the Kenai Peninsula.
UCIDA president David Martin said that Mat-Su residents and legislators are not the only people who lobbied to keep the meetings in Anchorage.
He said that Kenai River Sportfishing Association also testified to have the meetings in Anchorage, saying it was a “hostile environment” to have the meetings in Kenai.