The United Fishermen of Alaska met in Seattle this year (November 17-19th) in conjunction with the Fish Expo. USAG is a member of UFA and designates a representative to work with other fishery groups from across the state on statewide and national issues affecting all commercial fishermen and gillnetters in some way or another.
Some of this year’s hot topics included: National Health Care, Oil Development in the Outer Continental Shelf particularly in Bristol Bay and north of the Aleutians, Marine Safety Legislation going through Congress, Fishermen Fund Legislation before the state legislature, Halibut Charter Lawsuits and upcoming issues on halibut, Crew data collection, Growing expansion of the SE sea otter populations, Protection of spawning beds and fisheries concerns under the Alaska Coastal Management Program amongst many other issues.
Some discussion ensued whether ASMI should take over as the client for MSC(marine stewardship council). Until recently, the Dept of Fish & Game paid for MSC certification of the salmon fisheries, but recent certification in 2008 caused a great deal of concern for fishery regulators. In some regards, MSC was seen as attempting to micromanage Alaskan salmon fisheries and in particular focusing unwarranted attention of Alaska’s salmon hatcheries. At the meeting, USAG, which is a strong proponent of the salmon hatchery system, sought from ASMI, assurance that future MSC certification wouldn’t hamstring or limit our fishery managers and our hatchery production.
There was quite a bit of discussion at the Seattle Meeting on Subsistence. With salmon shortages occurring on the Yukon, and with the recent citation given to State Senator Albert Kookesh for excessive harvest on a state subsistence permit; the federal Dept. of Interior has indicated they will be doing a full review of subsistence priorities on all federal lands. UFA discussed the option and drafted and voted on a letter to support commercial fisheries in Alaska and to ensure that no commercial fishery is affected by federal action. This will be an ongoing issue and it is unclear what our role will be. The Commissioner of Fish & Game insinuated that the Dept of Fish & Game would be challenging any federal rulings that jeopardize our state sovereignty.
Semi Annual meetings for UFA often allow for many state and federal regulators to visit the board and interact on many of the issues confronting us. Arne Fugolvog with Sen. Murkowski’s office, Commissioner Denby Loyd of ADF&G, President Wayne Stevens of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, Bob King with Sen. Mark Begich via teleconference, Executive Director of ASMI Ray Riutta, James Balsinger, acting director of NMFS, was amongst many of the important folks often looking out for or regulating our industry.
UFA Membership Necessary to
Keep UFA Running
The UFA board functions like any other board in that we vote and deliberate on many of the issues with some issues being more contentious than others. Sitting through these meetings, one realizes quite quickly that commercial fishermen are being threatened in a variety of ways and on a variety of fronts. It is important for the future of the Industry for UFA to continue. With staff and board members, Alaska is fairly well represented on important issues. However, UFA is struggling to make ends meet and additional funds are need to run and office, maintain staff and continue to provide outreach and along with conducting future meetings. As Gillnetters it is important for us to anti-up, so to speak to support UFA. The board unfortunately has had to cut the budget and one staff position of two has gone unfulfilled. Much of the outreach information that is important for us as gillnetters and fishing businesses may not be getting the proper attention it deserves.
USAG’s Role in UFA
USAG voted and took action with other members on UFA’s full agenda. Most notably, we spoke out on federal funding continuing project in SE regarding Chinook, sockeye enumeration studies and treaty issues affecting all of our fishing districts. We voted with other groups to ban offshore drilling in Bristol Bay. We asked tough questions of the Governor’s office regarding future subsistence issues. Importantly, USAG sat at the table with many other Southeast and Statewide Fishing groups to address the problems and concerns confronting our fishing businesses.
If you have any questions about UFA or you are interested in the USAG’s role, contact the executive director with your thoughts and questions.