Alan Parks is a Homer resident and commercial fisher. (Courtesy photo)

Alan Parks is a Homer resident and commercial fisher. (Courtesy photo)

Voices of the Peninsula: HB 52 would hurt commercial fishing and community

Upper Cook Inlet fishing families have been hit hard by ongoing politics

By Alan Parks

Rep. Vance’s Bill HB 52 is irresponsible, anti-commercial fishing, anti-community and presented with false and misleading statements.

HB 52 is about removing approximately 123 acres of land from Kachemak Bay State Park that the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery sits on. And basically, handing the land over to the contractor of 30 years, Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA).

For 38 years, my income primarily came from commercial fishing; we raised a family on fish. I’m not against commercial fishing, or salmon hatcheries, but I am against HB 52 — which makes me pro-commercial fishing and pro-community.

Rep. Vance is charging ahead with HB 52 without basic financial information from CIAA, no business plan, profit and loss statement — nothing but a wink and nod.

Only about 20 commercial fishing boats benefit from Rep Vance’s HB 52. The ironic reality is, for the 30 years CIAA has operated the TBLH, fishermen have only harvested 11% of the returning salmon to TBLH. The bulk of the returns have been harvested by CIAA to cover some, not all of the operating expense.

Upper Cook Inlet fishing families have been hit hard by ongoing politics and from 1980 to present have contributed over $26 million to CIAA and received little benefit. Over the same period Lower Cook Inlet (LCI) fishermen have contributed $1.7 million to CIAA and received most of the benefit.

Salmon hatcheries are an important element of commercial fishing in Alaska. I stated this to a LCI fishermen and CIAA board member: “If TBLH went away (terminated operations) you would hardly notice it gone.” He replied, “you’re probably right.”

Not all hatcheries are created equally. The Soloman Gulch hatchery located in the Port of Valdez achieves an 11% return from salmon smolt releases; TBLH achieves about a 2% return. Soloman Gulch hatchery is an economic winner. HB 52 is about stripping 123 acers of land from within Kachemak Bay State Park and enabling TBLH — a known economic loser.

HB 52 is not about sockeye salmon being produced at TBLH (they can’t because of disease in the water) and the China Poot Bay sockeye personal use fishery — those fish basically come from the Trail Lakes Hatchery

HB 52 is not about a land swap — the lands already have protection and are already managed by the park.

TBLH has been operating in Kachemak Bay State Park illegally for years.

HB 52 is anti-commercial fishing, anti-community poorly thought-out bill. That’s a fact!

Alan Parks resides in Homer and is a father, commercial fisher and businessman. He has served on the Homer City Council, numerous boards, task forces and committees regarding Alaska fisheries resources. He is steadfast in promoting community-based fisheries and a working waterfront.

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