Point of View: Remodeling Alaska’s fishing industry

On the 18th of August there will be two issues that will be brought to the forefront of today’s political arena and decided: Alaska’s binding caucus and the Permanent Fund Dividend. These two issues have been highly talked about and discussed. However, when we imagine the well being of the State of Alaska, there are other areas that must be addressed. I want to bring attention to the fishing industry.

It should go almost without saying that fishing plays a pivotal role in our state’s economy, and not only in our commercial industries. Fishing is a hot-button topic for tourism, along with the game of sports fishing, subsistence and the general concept of feeding the family. One of the beginning steps our community needs to take when addressing the shortcomings of Alaska’s inventory of fish is to stop pointing fingers at one another.

In order to execute meaningful policy that lasts in our Alaskan wildlife services, we have to start from top to bottom. Reliable and transparent management needs to be established, starting with annual audits aimed at our fishing commissioners. Audits aimed at making sure statistics being put out are accountable and accurate are one of the minimums of government we can actually expect, and with the current operating procedures, it has become grossly noticeable that money and politics have become a driving factor of the customization of Alaska’s fish sources. I didn’t study in wildlife biology, nor possess a fish and wildlife management degree, and I hope everyone can forgive me for that, but nonetheless here are my proposals:

Currently the commercial fishing industry is limited to two days of the week for fishing, in essence interfering with the survival of salmon and the men and women who are trying to make a living. When the industry is limited to one zone, you can potentially wipe out the return of salmon. This season, commercial fishing is stuck in a large box, right underneath Kalgin Island. In order to support the float guides fishing industry as well as subsistence fishing, salmon escapement needs to be ensured so that all of our state’s fish species isn’t jeopardized by the spike of nitrogen released into the water. By extension there needs to be eyes open in case of the issue of overescapement, a mutual issue for fisheries as well as for fish that are cramming into bodies of water they weren’t meant to be in.

Fishing shouldn’t be catalogued underneath Alaska’s boring-but-true bureaucracy. It is a lively industry that is responsible for the health of many Alaskans as well as a high source of revenue for the state. This is a conversation that needs to be activated again. Commercial fishing is enabled depending on a fish count made up to five days prior; therefore, it’s important that we as a community reach a gray area through trigger points. When fish is at around 500 of a hypothetical maximum of 1,000, we can possibly consider opening fishing from two days to three. Incidentally, the community may also consider opening units they can fish in to avoid the possibility of depleting a specific run of salmon.

I’ve also been asked about my thoughts on fish farming and hatcheries. I believe the hatchery plays a vital role in maintaining a dependable return of salmon, provided the hatcheries are maintained at the headwaters of each river for the purpose of ensuring genetic salmon to the specific river.

John Cox is a Republican Party primary candidate for Senate District P, covering Cordova, Kodiak Island, Homer, Anchor Point, Kasilof, Ninilchik, Yakutat, Seldovia and Tyonek. Cox’s opponent is Gary Stevens.