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PUBLISHED: 5:16 PM on Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Halibut quote shares a hot topic

Citing concerns that "fish and minerals don't mix," the United Fishermen of Alaska this week voted unanimously to oppose the Pebble Mine project being proposed near Bristol Bay. Pebble would be the largest open pit copper and gold mine in North America.

"The very development of Pebble is an industry unto itself," said UFA environmental chairman Bruce Wallace, after the annual meeting wrapped up on Thursday in Juneau.

"Clearly, one of the things we're going to do is demand is that all of the appropriate testing, particularly as it relates to surface and subsurface water, be done," he added. Wallace said UFA will provide a white paper on its Pebble Mine decision in coming weeks.

UFA also selected a slate of fish issues it will bring before Alaska lawmakers this year.

Topping the list - support for halibut quota shares for sport charters, whose catches have skyrocketed in some regions.

"We feel that the sport charter halibut sector needs to pony up and sit at the table with us and take some responsibility for conservation and longer term allocations," said outgoing UFA president Bobby Thorstenson, Jr.

Alaska fishermen are also going to bat for the Dept. of Fish and Game budget, which so far is facing a $150 million cut. "We feel that the fish and game budget has been woefully under funded for at least two decades. Meanwhile, the fishing industry has taken on more responsibility and paid more taxes and fees. Cutting the fish and game budget is unacceptable," Thorstenson said, adding that UFA will be pushing for a $4 million increase for the department.

UFA also has come out strongly against a law being proposed by Senators Murray and Spanel of Washington (SB 5207) that would impose a fee on all shipping containers. The law would create and fund a "freight congestion relief account", said UFA statewide chair, Kathy Hansen.

"The fee would be $50 per 20 foot container. So a 40 foot container (the shipping standard) would be $100. That's for both directions - inbound and outbound - on all products," Hansen said.

David Otte of Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association said his group sends almost 1,800 vans to or from Washington each year. The container fee would add a cost of $180,000.

"It may seem like a kind of innocuous bill, but it has huge ramifications for Alaska," he said.

UFA also elected a new president - Joe Childers of Juneau. He replaces Thorstenson who is stepping down after seven years at the UFA helm. United Fishermen of Alaska represents 35 regional fishing groups and several thousand members, making it one of the nation's largest industry trade groups.

Fish Spotlights

Hartley's Northwest Seafood LLC won the 'People's Choice' award for its entry - halibut with blue cheese and hazelnut crust - at the Symphony of Seafood last Thursday in Seattle. All other winners will be announced at a gala soiree on Feb. 17 in Anchorage.

The Wild Seafood Exchange connects fishermen directly with restaurateurs and retailers. The day long event is set for Feb. 20th in Seattle. Registration subsidies are offered by Washington Sea Grant.

Fact or Fiction?

Alaska historians hope to track down a plaque supposedly given to members of a so-called "50-50 Club" - an elite group of fishermen who weathered 50 storms in which there were 50-foot seas. Sources in Dutch Harbor, Kodiak and Ballard claim not to have heard of the club. Is it merely rural legend or is it real, and if so, does the plaque really exist? Contact rwking@gci.net .

Fish funds

American Seafoods Company is accepting applications for its Alaska community grant program. In late February an advisory board will award a total of $30,000 to projects devoted to hunger relief, housing, safety, education, natural resources and cultural activities. American Seafoods will distribute $75,000 to Alaska projects and programs in 2007. Submit applications by February 19 to Kim Lynch at kim.lynch@americanseafoods.com or 206-256-2659.


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