By Chris Philips
Managing Editor

Trust in government is at an all time low
in the US, thanks in large part to local and state governments which, although
closest to and most directly responsible to the people they serve, continue to
make bad law and bad policy, and in some cases ignore the law altogether.

In 1994 the Washington State legislature
enacted the Regulatory Fairness Act to protect small business from onerous and
harmful regulation. The act states, in part, “…administrative rules adopted by
state agencies can have a disproportionate impact on the state’s small
businesses because of the size of those businesses. This disproportionate
impact reduces competition, innovation, employment, and new employment
opportunities, and threatens the very existence of some small businesses.”

Early last year, in spite of the Regulatory
Fairness Act, the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously
adopted a policy to close the lower Columbia River to commercial, non-tribal
gillnets, even though the commission was at the time made up of several members
whose terms had expired, and without the commercial fishing representation
required by law. 
Eighteen months later, the commission still has a vacancy, and
small businessmen have been forced to petition the State of Washington to
invalidate the regulation. Meanwhile the mark-selective commercial seine
fishery, proposed for the Columbia on an experimental basis, has experienced
high mortality rates, as the area’s gillnetters, both tribal and non-tribal,
had predicted. Trust in government remains in short supply among small business
owners fishing the Columbia.

In Alaska the Pebble Mine controversy
continues, with opponents claiming the breach of a tailings pond at the massive
proposed mine would threaten the health of Bristol Bay, while sportfishing
special interest groups, taking a cue from their counterparts in Washington and
Oregon, are trying to close Cook Inlet to commercial gillnetters. Meanwhile, the
breach of a tailings pond dam in British Columbia released an estimated 14.5
million cubic meters of mine wastes into the Fraser River watershed, giving the
West Coast a preview, on a much smaller scale, of what a similar breach would
mean to Alaska’s salmon industry.

And yet, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell has
appointed Ben Mohr, a former publicist for the Pebble Limited Partnership, to
serve as his new fisheries advisor – a position previously held by respected
fisheries experts including Cora Campbell, current Commissioner of the Alaska
Department of Fish and Game. While no commercial fishing groups seem to have
been consulted prior to the appointment, Ricky Gease, executive director of the
Kenai River Sportfishing Association, has been quoted as believing Mohr will
“…follow in the footsteps of good fisheries advisers to the governor’s office.”

footsteps Mr. Mohr will choose to follow remain to be seen, but we hope he
wipes the mine tailings off his shoes before he starts wandering around the
pristine waters of Alaska