Local News

Sitka committee rejects subsistence permit idea

Mike Baines sets hemlock branches in 2010. Herring deposit their eggs on the branches, which are then harvested for use as a traditional food. (KCAW file photo by Ed Ronco)

A proposal to require permits for subsistence herring roe harvesters was unanimously rejected by the Sitka Fish & Game Advisory Committee on Tuesday.

The proposal was brought forward by the Southeast Herring Conservation Alliance. Executive Director Steve Reifenstuhl says he introduced the idea for subsistence roe permits because claims of a poor harvest have been used as a wedge issue against the fishery.

“Throughout the state, it’s not required to have a permit, or to weigh or show your harvest. And I fully support that,” Reifenstuhl said. “But when the harvest is being used to try to shut down a fishery or try to curtail a fishery or to restrict the area where it can fish, it’s a whole different matter.”

The measure was considered on the same agenda as proposals to establish subsistence-only zones in Sitka Sound. Those were also rejected by the advisory committee.

Reifenstuhl said requiring subsistence permits for herring roe would ensure an accurate measurement of how much is gathered. But those speaking on behalf of subsistence harvesters said the proposal is wasteful of both state time and, potentially, the herring eggs being harvested.

“You’re requiring subsistence herring harvesters to go out and do something that no other subsistence harvester is required to do, which is discriminatory against the subsistence harvesters,” said Jeff Feldpausch, resource protection director for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska. “And if you want to take that a step further, the subsistence report shows that most of those subsistence harvesters are Native Alaskans.”

The proposal was one of several that failed to earn committee approval Tuesday night. Only one measure – to allocate 1,000 tons of the commercial sac roe quota to a bait fishery, was recommended.

All the measures will go to the Board of Fish when it meets in Ketchikan in February.

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