UFA asks for fishermen’s input on habitat

The biggest commercial fishing trade organization in the state is looking for a little more information about engagement and habitat from its members.

The United Fishermen of Alaska launched its Salmon Habitat Information Project on Tuesday in an effort to keep fishermen and the organization more connected with habitat information across the state. The initiative kicks off with a survey to gain more information from fishermen about habitat conditions in their home fishing grounds and how they would engage with the organization, said Lindsey Bloom, the program manager and a UFA board member.

The survey asks fishermen about what conditions they observe in their local environments. One question asks about the words fishermen use to describe salmon habitat, from “spawning bed” to “open ocean,” and another asks how well the taker feels Alaska is managing its salmon populations.

The other part is to touch base with how fishermen want to be engaged. As technology has changed, fishermen may use cell phones, text or email, so the UFA wants to stay updated on how to reach them.

“We’re launching with the survey because we want to get a better idea of what fishermen really care about, where their strongest interests lie, and how they want to be engaged, and how do they want to be contacted,” Bloom said.

The UFA offers prizes for survey takers — a $500 Alaska Airlines voucher or a $200 LFS gift card. Once the survey wraps up on Sept. 5, Bloom said she will take that information back to the UFA board in time for its fall meeting.

The association regularly weighs in on development projects that would take place in or affect salmon habitat, such as the controversial Pebble Mine project near Bristol Bay or the Department of Natural Resources’ water management policies. However, Bloom said keeping track of all the environmental changes going on in the state, such as changing ocean conditions or fish health, can be a challenge.

The Salmon Habitat Information Project would help bring together information for possible action.

The UFA keeps a running set of committees on a variety of issues, such as environmental policy and fish farming, marketing and Board of Fisheries issues, that bring forward ideas for positions or policies for the board to ultimately vote on.

“We want to bridge that hurdle,” Bloom said. “My hunch is that if fishermen are as aware and informed as they want to be and can be on what’s going on with habitat in their fisheries, they’ll be engaged as well.”

The UFA also wants to know how fishermen would engage with the association and with lobbying efforts like testifying to the Legislature or to the Board of Fisheries. The survey will help the planners figure out where to start and how to best reach fishermen across the state, she said.

The survey is open to commercial fishermen and their families and can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/UFAhabitat.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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