The Kenai Peninsula chapter of Trout Unlimited recently hosted a gathering with the purpose of swapping fish tales — one of our favorite pastimes here on the Kenai Peninsula.
This gathering, however, and the tales told, included stories from both sport and commercial fishers. And while methods and means may be different, there is a common thread running through every narrative: fishing is a passion. It draws people down to the water season after season.
That people are passionate about fishing is not a news flash.
We’ve known that all along. In fact, the reason we have so much disagreement over fishing regulation is because of that passion.
But finding a way to use that passion to bring us all together, rather than letting it drive us apart, is a sentiment worth reflecting upon.
At the Trout Unlimited gathering, the Clarion reported that, when asked why they fish, participants cited a sense of place, camaraderie, adventure, and the opportunity to be outdoors as motivations — regardless of what type of fishing they do.
“I think the whole point of me wanting to give this talk at all was that all of those things are … a common thread through any type of fishing,” Allie Cunningham, a Trout Unlimited board member with recent experience in the commercial fishery, told the Clarion.
We’re still more than a year away from the next Board of Fisheries Upper Cook Inlet meeting. There’s growing impetus to hold the meeting in the Kenai-Soldotna area for the first time since 1999.
Much has changed since then, and there’s plenty of people from all walks of the fishing life willing prioritize conservation and sustainability. They want to see productive fishing on the Kenai Peninsula for generations to come, whether it’s fishing as a pastime, a lifestyle or an occupation.
Leading up to the 2017 meeting, we hope such gatherings continue. Whether they’re casual meetings or formal policy forums, it is crucial that Kenai Peninsula fishermen present a sense of unity at the next fish board meeting, wherever it happens to be.
Too many other organizations in Southcentral Alaska continue to use fishery issues as a political wedge when it comes to setting policy.
Debates over fishing on the Kenai Peninsula will never be free from controversy. Again, we appreciate the passion that all user groups bring to the table.
But the more we find the common ground among competing interests, the more productive and beneficial those debates are going to be.