Southeast Alaska Seiners Struggling With Salmon Observer Program

Commercial harvesters in the Southeast Alaska salmon drift
gillnet fishery, mandated for observation under the federal Marine Mammal
Protection Act, say changes are needed in the program because it’s disrupting
their fishery.
“It’s just a colossal waste of money,” said B.J. King, a
veteran commercial fisherman from Kent, Washington. “They’re not telling us
what they’re really after.
“I was observed twice this year, and it wasn’t a very
pleasant experience,” he said.
Having somebody operating a small vessel 10 feet off the
back of your boat when you are trying to clean the net off, counting fish and
following you to the tender, it’s irritating, he said.
Kathy Hansen, executive director of the Southeast Alaska
Fishermen’s Alliance, said her organization hasn’t taken a position for or
against the program yet, but there are lots of things she would like to see
One issue, said Hansen, is that other fisheries required to
be included in this program are being observed for two years, but the National
Marine Fisheries Service is looking at doing Southeast Alaska over a period of
six to eight years, because the area is so big and spread out.
Bridget Mansfield, the NOAA coordinator of the marine mammal
observe program, based in Juneau, said that NOAA does not want to overly burden
the fishermen.
“If this fishery is clean, we are not going to impose any
restriction on what they are doing, so we want to have the documentation that
says we don’t need to do anything. We really need to find that balance,” she
For any fishermen with concerns about the program, Mansfield
can be reached at 1-907-586-7642 or at
Mansfield is to meet with representatives of the commercial
fleet in Juneau on Dec. 3, in conjunction with a board meeting of the United
Southeast Alaska Gillnetters, said Tom Gemmell, executive director of the
“We’re hoping they can reduce it to three years,” Gemmell
said. “2012 was the first year for districts 6 and 8.” Plans are to do
districts 11 and 15 next for two years and then the Ketchikan area for two