The bait is in the water and Fisherman Pete is waiting for a strike. He's been trolling Alaskan waters for nearly 100 years. A plate full of lutefisk and lefse, with a strong cup of coffee served black, is all it takes to get him started.
Novenber 4th, 2018
Ketchikan Waterfront 1977
There was a time in Alaska politics when big money from outside businesses worked hard to stymie a proposition by the people of Alaska to protect salmon. It was the debate for statehood. The outsiders were the cannery owners and mining interest who feared that statehood for Alaska would mean more regulation and less profit for themselves. They made the argument for less government oversight and they had their local staunch supporters, but they were a minority.
The major issue was the decline of the salmon catch due to the fish traps that were not regulated. In 1959, the Alaskan salmon fishery had its worst year on record, so it was not a surprise that the first act of the new State was banning fish traps. The State also included in its constitution a unique clause stating that Alaska’s natural resources are to be managed for best public use.
“Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use"
That redirection of political power saw Alaska return to once again to having record catch levels, but now we face another salmon crisis.
Proposition 1 has been brought forward by 44,000 concerned Alaskan registered voters who signed the petition. The need for these regulations has been supported by 58 former employees of the state who managed the fisheries. It came about because strong lobbying halted progress of a bill with similar language through the legislature.
It is being opposed by international oil and mining companies whose campaign spending out spends the proponents of the measure 12 to 1. Their first message conceded that there was problem, but that it was off shore and therefore the habitat concerns that the initiative is about were not valid. After realizing that was bad argument they used scare tactics to infer that this proposition could have shut down the building of the pipeline or the “road” to Juneau. The initiative does nothing of the sort and to say it could would be fear mongering. This is a State of Alaska initiative and the federal government has no say in how we regulate our fisheries. Even if the initiative had an unintended runaway clause -it can be changed or completely revoked in one year by the Legislature.
The important point to remember is that there is danger to our salmon. The climate is changing and while we don’t understand all the variables, we all do understand salmon in Alaska are being impacted. We know that the salmon industry and fisheries are a defining element of who we are as Alaskans. To lose this resource like other parts of the world have, would be a far greater tragedy than running out of oil or running out of copper. The fragile gift of salmon has been a resource to the people who have live here for generations. They understand that this gift is not ours to have, but ours to pass onto our children.
We need to have something in place to protect what we have and this initiative at least puts something down that can be adjusted. This not about oil companies or mining companies. It’s about taking simple precautions now to prevent catastrophe later. One only has to look at what has happened in Washington State where salmon are endangered and efforts to restore damaged habitat comes about as easy as putting toothpaste back into its tube.
So when you go to the poles on Tuesday make your decision based on the facts. This is not liberal or conservative issue, Democrat or Republican , or even rural vs urban, this is an Alaskan issue and a generational obligation. Please vote.