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Both sides testify on subsistence controversy

Kootznoowoo General Manager Peter Naoroz, left, addresses the Federal Subsistence Board Thursday during its Juneau meeting. Alaska Native Brotherhood subsistence leader Bob Loescher, right, listens. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld.

Different sides of the Angoon sockeye controversy made their case before the Federal Subsistence Board on Thursday.

Angoon’s Kootznoowoo village Native corporation petitioned the federal government to take over management of some Chatham Strait fisheries. It wants officials to make subsistence harvests a higher priority than commercial fishing.

Kootznoowoo General Manager Peter Naoroz said purse seiners are taking too many sockeye salmon that should go to the community.

He said in some years, enough for fish return for both groups. But in others, the harvest is unbalanced.

“The question is: ‘Who takes the risk for a bad year?’ Is it the fishermen who have these mighty boats who can move to another location where the fish are? Or should it be the community of Angoon? It can’t pick up and move. Those fish are coming home,” he said.

Commercial fishing groups disagreed. They said subsistence sockeye numbers could increase if a key spawning route is improved – by blasting a waterfall or building a fish ladder.

United Fishermen of Alaska Executive Director Mark Vinsel said seiners are not the problem.

“This is a specious and confrontational petition without merit. Until the Board of Fisheries decisions are shown to interfere with federal subsistence priorities, there’s simply no legal basis for bypassing state management in Alaska’s salmon fisheries,” he said.

The Southeast Alaska Seiners Association and the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association were among those also opposing the jurisdiction petition. They suggested alternative methods of improving the subsistence catch.

Sealaska Corporation, Tlingit-Haida Central Council and several tribal governments supported Kootznoowoo’s petition.

The subsistence board will continue its deliberations Friday, though its recommendation to federal officials will not be made public.

Watch a Forest Service video featuring Angoon subsistence video:

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