Debate Becomes Emotional Over Missing Chinook

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Jay Barrett/KMXT
On Friday the Senate Resources Committee heard testimony on reducing Chinook salmon bycatch in Alaska’s trawl fisheries. The testimony across user groups was almost universally in favor of reducing the bycatch, with the only doubt being brought up by representatives of the trawl industry.
Senator Peter Micciche from Soldotna introduced Senate Resolution 5, which would request the North Pacific Fishery Management Council impose stricter limits on the trawl fleet.
Julie Bonny of Kodiak, a lobbyist for trawlers in the Gulf, said Micciche’s resolution was full of inaccuracies, and made an oblique pitch for Gulf rationalization as a way to facilitate bycatch reduction.
Stephanie Madsen of the At-Sea Processors Association, and a former chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, said her organization’s fishermen have implemented some avoidance techniques of their own, such as alerting other ships of bycatch hotspots, but criticized the implementation of bycatch caps that she says are too-stringent.
In a dramatic example of plummeting abundance, Tim Smith of the Nome Fishermen’s Association said three king salmon populations in Norton Sound are now basically extinct.
Angie Whitman of Bethel pointed out how extreme restrictions in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta devastated individuals there. She said that disaster relief money does nothing to help residents who depend on the salmon for food year-round.
Pete Wheedon of Homer echoed the sentiment that chinook salmon are too important to Alaskans to become someone else’s bycatch.
Senate Resources passed SR 5 out of committee on Friday. A similar resolution in the House, HR 6, is currently in the Rules Committee.
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