Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Alaska Board of Fisheries Considers Stronger Habitat Protections

The Alaska Board of Fisheries members meeting at Kodiak through Jan. 13 will consider asking Alaska legislators to revise Title 16 of the Alaska Statutes to put more teeth into regulations protecting fisheries habitat.

The statute as it stands directs the commissioners of the Departments of Fish and Game and Natural Resources in relatively vague terms to issue permits unless there is a determination that such activity is insufficient to protect fish and game.

Given the debate over potential adverse impact of development of non-renewable resources on fisheries habitat, a group of individuals, businesses and organizations united as “Stand For Salmon” is asking the Board of Fisheries to request that the Legislature take a look at permit requirements that haven’t been updated for years.

Stand For Salmon spokeswoman Lindsey Bloom of Juneau, a commercial harvester, said the group put the proposal to the Board of Fish “because when we started looking at the statutes regarding fish habitat permitting we realized there wasn’t much there. We started looking at where in Alaska policies was there anything better defining the ‘proper protection of fish and game’.

“We found what had the most meat on the bones was the BOF sustainable salmon policy. The BOF has authority over not just allocation but habitat as well and the Legislature relies on them to take actions and make recommendations that keep the politics out of what should be science based decisions,” Bloom said.

The sustainable salmon policy was the most detailed document they could find on what specific criteria and definitions for protection of fish and game might be, she said. But that policy is simply for guidance and there is no requirement that it be followed in processing fish habitat permits. “So we thought the statute, Title 16, which is Alaska’s fish Habitat Permitting law, should be updated and the BOF would be a good place to start to test the idea,” she said.

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