Charlie Pierce stands in his home on Thursday, March 11, 2022, in Sterling, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Charlie Pierce stands in his home on Thursday, March 11, 2022, in Sterling, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Point of View: Poorly managed fishery bycatch is an Alaska tragedy

Alaskan fishermen suffer the effects of policy failures

By Charlie Pierce

For the Homer News

During my visits with communities throughout Alaska, a number of concerns are discussed. One major concern is the effect of lax and dismissed enforcement of commercial fishing bycatch rules by our current administration.

Before going further, let me tell you about that cute term “bycatch.”

Around the world it is called “discarded and killed fish.” “Bycatch” is a NOAA created feel-good phrase embraced by the Alaska administration to make it sound like no big deal. Politicians playing games with words.

The effect of poorly managed and loose regulations regarding fishing bycatch has ramifications around the state of Alaska: from the sport fisherman hoping to catch that prized king salmon, to the halibut fisherman trying to bring home a tasty meal, to the commercial salmon boat trying to earn a living, to the commercial crabber bringing up an empty pot and to the commercial halibut boat trying to harvest one of Alaska’s food resources.

Alaskan fishermen from Nome to Bristol Bay, to the Cook Inlet to Kodiak, to Cordova to Ketchikan, to the Yukon-Kuskowim subsistence and all coastal communities suffer the effects of policy failures.

What do they all have in common? Simply put, catcher vessels and factory trawlers disposing of Alaska’s natural resource, our seafood. Why? Because of old and lax laws regarding the unintended bycatch and killing of a treasured resource, our Alaska fish.

As your governor, I will stand behind our sport, subsistence and directed commercial fisheries and the Alaska businesses they support. My administration will use all resources available, legal and regulatory, to stop this travesty and anti-Alaska fishing industry.

Did you know? Halibut reproduce when they grow to around 8 pounds, yet the bottom trawlers kill and discard them at about 5 pounds. Killing the babies before they can reproduce is tantamount to genocide of the halibut fish species. All sanctioned by the current administration and done in the name of increasing the financial bottom line of the mostly Seattle-based industrial trawl fleet.

The current administration has started a “committee” to review this problem. Do you know what the most used words in the committee are? “Should,” “underway,” “exploring,” “evaluate,” “monitor,” “continue to explore” and “discuss.”

Not once is there a mention of “do,” “now” or just plain “fix it.”

There are ways to stop the destruction of the Alaska fishing industry — sound management and a governor who cares.

So who are those holding back and destroying our precious resource? The Alaskan public? No.

Politicians receiving money to turn a blind eye? Yes and yes. It’s mostly out-of-state companies with offshore trawler processing vessels that provide that money while they prioritize short-term profit over protecting our fishing resource.

What can we do?

A Pierce administration:

• Will require the use of electronic surveillance monitoring on a 24/7 basis.

• Will impose taxes on out-of-state operations equal to the full value of the “bycatch” of all species and use that to support Alaska-based fishery enterprises.

• Will work with Congress and demand a 9-mile state water limit with no bottom trawling.

• Will deploy other methods available, on a priority basis, using today’s data and action now.

These actions, with the appointment of individuals to the NPFMC who understand their one and only job is “Alaskans First” will make a difference.

Ask your politicians, ask the governor.

Have you taken money from mostly out-of-state seafood processor groups? What have you done to help Alaska?

Charlie Pierce has not and will not accept the tainted donations from those that seek to destroy our Alaska fishing resource.

Results, not rhetoric, will put Alaskans first and restore our right to fish the waters of Alaska without the destructive interference of outside “predators” while retaining the integrity and livelihood of our fishing fleets and their on-deck workers.

You can count on a Gov. Pierce administration to put Alaskans first.

Charlie Pierce is the Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor and a candidate for Alaska governor.

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