Common property – Craig Medred
The tax, which the Alaska legislature called an “assessment” in an attempt to avoid an Alaskan constitutional ban on dedicated taxes, was intended to benefit private, nonprofit aquaculture companies controlled by fishermen. commercial.
As the program was designed, hatchery societies – or “associations” as they were officially called – would run a system of hatcheries to fill the ocean off the 49th state with a salmon bounty. “Common property” for the benefit of Alaskans of all kinds – commercial fishermen, personal fishermen, sport fishermen, even subsistence fishermen.
Although Alex sued for the tax, it wasn’t his real concern. He was worried that hatcheries would one day replace fishermen like him.
Go ahead now 39 years old and turn your attention north from Juneau for 550 miles to the town of Seward at the head of Resurrection Bay.
It is in this bay that the Alaska Department of Fisheries and Game now reports that the Cook Inlet Regional Aquaculture Association (CIAA) this year “predicts a total return of 211,700 sockeye returning to release sites. Resurrection Bay… with 189,000 of them harvested for cost recovery. “
The CIAA is one of those associations that Alex, who died in 2018, worried would one day replace the commercial fishermen.
It should be noted that he and his co-plaintiffs won their case against the dedicated tax in 1982, although it was not easy. The state and aquaculture associations that lobbied for the system took the case to the state Supreme Court, which sided with Alex.
“We agree and believe that since the constitution prohibits the earmarking of any source of revenue, including ‘taxes’ and’ special assessments’, the assessments authorized by AS 16.10.530 are ‘the product of a tax or state license, ”within the meaning of Article IX, Section 7, whether or not the salmon assessments meet the definition of“ special assessments ”,” the High Court said.
The plaintiffs’ victory was short-lived.
The legislature quickly went back and rewrote the law. The assessment was called what it was, a tax. And the funds raised were formally stipulated to be included in the general fund with the additional provision that “the Alaska legislature may allocate salmon enhancement tax revenues to provide funding to qualified regional aquaculture associations.”
As it has been said many times, “You can’t fight the town hall.
The state has been providing money to hatchery associations for decades. In recent years, payments have ranged from $ 6.5 million to $ 9 million per year, but since this does not fully cover the costs of operating the hatcheries, the cost recovery program was initiated in 2006.
This was creatively called a “Common Property Fishery Assessment” to allow hatcheries to set up a private fishing area where they could contract with a few fishermen to catch lots of fish to cover costs. hatchery operation.
The CIAA is operating one of those cost recovery zones this year to ensure it can collect more than 89 percent of the “common property” salmon it has produced in its hatchery. The Alaskans will share the remaining 11%.
If, of course, the 211,700 return this year. Returns of sockeye salmon around south-central Alaska now appear to be generally weak. If less than 211,700 return to the Bay, the CIAA may be able to get them all.
I can almost hear Alex say “I told you so”.
Alex was one of those better people at seeing further down the road than most. This made him a very successful fisherman. In terms of technology, he was a “first adapter” before the term became mainstream.
Alex’s purse seiner was once moored in a port in Juneau not far from the blue sailboat I was living on at the time, and Alex regularly invited me on board to show off new technologies. He introduced me to side scan sonar in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Side-scan sonar provides a picture of what’s going on in the water under and around a boat if, of course, you can read the video display. When Alex circled the scan around Harris Harbor, it looked like little more than a bunch of odd spots and shapes, but he patiently explained what they were all showing.
It was a bit like sitting down with a doctor to explain what you see in a sonogram or one computed tomography. Alex was impressed with the technology. He explained how this not only helped him find salmon, but allowed him to observe a seine that circled and then completely encircled a school of fish.
It has been said that he sometimes had the net around so many fish that his boat could not hold the full load.
“… During his career he has brought a lot to the fishing industry. including the automatic baiter Marco, helped design the Marco Seine block and other fishing techniques and practices, ”noted his obituary upon his death at the age of 80 in 2018.“ His hobbies included boxing, archery, playing guitar, gunsmithing, hunting, traveling and visiting friends, writing letters to the editor of local newspapers. He was a legend to many and will be sorely missed.
Perhaps it was this letter that led him to try to train a journalist for the Juneau Empire. Who knows. I never asked. I simply appreciated his intelligence and his willingness to share his knowledge.
Sometimes now it’s hard to avoid wondering if more commercial fishermen shouldn’t have paid attention to him and his co-plaintiffs in the early ’80s, even if it has to be said in defense of the hatcheries:
They are effective.
In a world that is trying to reduce carbon emissions from internal combustion engines, there is an argument to be made to shore up Alaskan salmon harvests in hatcheries instead of burning a lot of oil to chase them away. fish in the ocean.
Not to mention that these cost recovery harvests in terminal areas near the hatchery or release sites where hatchery fish have been dumped into the ocean reduce bycatch and stock harvest problems to almost zero. mixed that haunted some of the state’s commercial fisheries. .
The Wild Fish Conservancy, based in Washington state, is already in federal court trying to shut down one of these fisheries off Alaska. Highlighting studies indicating that “less than 3 percent of chinook salmon caught in the ocean off Southeast Alaska are native to Alaska.” More than 97 percent of these chinooks come from rivers in British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon.
The Conservancy maintains that the Alaskan fishery is responsible for cutting off the food supply to a southern resident killer whale population, which has grown from 100 to 72 animals.
Categories: Commentary, Exterior