Commercial fishermen have an awful lot of clout in Washington, but nothing compared with the dominance the industry has over fishing in Alaska.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries recently allotted the state’s salmon fisheries for 1997, allocating 20,000 king salmon for commercial gillnet fishermen and purse seiners.
The rest of the kings were divided with 80 percent to commercial troll fishermen and the balance - 20 percent - to sport fishermen, the same as last year.
In addition, in a move supported by the commercial trollers, the board slapped a limit of four kings per year in Southeast Alaska on every nonresident sportsman, no matter how many days they fish in Alaska.
Cook Inlet, beside which Anchorage sits, has had a five-fish annual limit for several years. But this is a new thing for Southeast.
Doug Unruh, former president of the Juneau Charterboat Association, says he doesn’t think the 20 percent allocation is enough, even though, he says, that will work out to about 42,000 fish.
“You’ve got your largest user group, which is sportsmen, taking the smallest percentage of the fish,” he said. “I think we should have a larger percentage.”
A state study done in 1991 determined that every sport-caught king salmon was worth more than $900 to the Alaskan economy, Unruh says. That’s pushing $40 million a year, overall.
But the commercials have been too tough to fight, he says.
Nonresident fishing in Alaska is growing, officials say. Nonresidents take about 65 percent of the sportcaught king salmon in Southeast Alaska.
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