State Cries Foul Over Boundary Shift Between State, Federal Waters



Areas in magenta denote revised boundaries demarking the division between state and federal waters. The changes affect jurisdiction and state agencies are crying foul.

Jacob Resneck/KMXT

New federal charts published last summer have shifted some boundary lines that separate state and federal waters. Federal waters generally start at the three-nautical mile line but the methodology has changed and so have regulations for some commercial fishing areas.

That’s already forced some fishermen on the western side of Kodiak Island as well as Homer’s Kachemak Bay to pull gear from areas they’ve been fishing for years. While it’s not clear how many fishermen may have been ticketed, federal law enforcement agents say they’re duty bound to enforce the new lines.

— boundary 1 :06 "We are bound … as they’re published."

That’s Matt Brown, a deputy special agent in charge of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement in Juneau. He’s say his office is trying to educate the industry on the new charts.

— boundary 2 :29 "It is becoming … any other direction."

Some of the most substantial changes have been at the mouth of Uyak Bay on the west side of Kodiak Island. There have also been alterations in Katchemak Bay which will affect this month’s Pacific cod openers.

Already there’s been push back from the state. Last month Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell penned a letter to the regional head of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau complaining that the state hadn’t been consulted.

Gordy Williams is a special assistant to the commissioner.

— boundary 3 :31 "You know we were … place this spring."

Williams says Fish and Game is hopeful the boundary dispute can be resolved so it doesn’t end up in the courts.

— boundary 4 :15 "The whole boundary … our state’s rights."

In the meantime, Fish and Game has asked NOAA not to ticket fishermen who unwittingly drop their gear in areas that, until recently, had been state waters.

— boundary 5 :20 "Given that the … this month."

But NOAA officials like Brown say agents don’t have that kind of latitude and will be enforcing the boundaries as they appear on the new charts. He encourages fishermen to consult with local enforcement officers for clarification.

— boundary 6 :15 "Anybody who is … and work with them."

The state Department of Natural Resources is working to resolve this issue. And it’s not just limited to fishing. The new lines may also affect natural gas and oil deposits and undersea features which could have far-reaching consequences in relations between the state of Alaska and the federal government.


Check Also

Midday Report – December 8, 2023

In today’s Midday Report – Alaska’s backlog of processing SNAP applications continues; information about a …

%d bloggers like this: