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Fish board member quits, cites personal reasons

Posted: January 24, 2013 - 2:07pm


 

Bill Brown of Juneau has resigned from the Alaska Board of Fisheries half-way through his second term, citing personal and personality reasons.

In a brief, three-line letter to Gov. Sean Parnell dated Jan. 7, Brown stated that his resignation was effective immediately, apologized for not fulfilling his term and thanked the governor for the opportunity to serve.

In an interview with public broadcaster KTOO in Juneau, Brown did not specify the personality issues behind his resignation, but indicated it was a decision he did not come to lightly.

“I did not want to resign,” he told KTOO. “But I spent about a month thinking about it. I talked to the commissioner. I talked to other board members about it. It was a decision I made.” 

He added he was not asked to step down, and some people at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game wanted him to stay on the board. He also said health concerns did not play a role in his decision. 

Brown was first appointed to the Board of Fisheries in 2008 by then-Gov. Sarah Palin. He was reappointed by Parnell in 2011, and his term was due to expire June 30, 2014. 

Brown owns Taku Reel Repair in Juneau. He also has a doctorate in economics from the University of Colorado, and has taught college economics classes, including at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Brown said he would like to stay involved in fisheries issues in some capacity.

“I’m passionate about fisheries in the state. I’m passionate about conservation,” Brown said. “I’m also passionate about the fact that people make their lives that way. That’s what they do for a living. It’s their lifestyle and I respect that. So, yeah, I’ll stay involved.” 

Parnell has 30 days to appoint a replacement to serve out the rest of Brown’s term, and is soliciting applications. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the legislature.

The Board of Fisheries is currently meeting in Anchorage regarding Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim finfish proposals. They meet again Feb. 26 through March 4 on Alaska Peninsula/Aleutian Islands issues, and March 19-24 on statewide finfish and supplemental issues.

 

Limited entry salmon permits have seen some falling values in the last couple of years, with a couple of notable exceptions. 

Upper Cook Inlet drift permits are one of the few areas in Alaska where permit prices are on the rise, selling for $75,000, up from around $55,000 over the last two years, and expected to rise further.

A check of permit broker web sites show some UCI drift permit owners asking as much as $100,000, and turning down offers of $76,000.

Southeast Alaska is another bright spot, with drift permits selling for $110,000 and seine permits going for $250,000.

Other areas of the state are not doing so well. 

Bristol Bay is coming off of two years of meager harvests, with another one projected for next year. Permit prices there have fallen to $90,000, from $165,000 as recently as 2011. However, the current price is similar to or slightly above 2009 prices.

Area M permits on the Alaska Peninsula are also down to about $90,000 from the 2011 price of about $150,000.

Prince William Sound drift permits are in the $140,000 range, down from $180,000, in spite of fairly robust harvests.

Kodiak seine permits are going for around $36,000, but there appears to be little interest.

The most expensive limited entry permit in the state is the Southeast herring seine permit, which topped out in 2011 at asking prices of $600,000, but has fallen to around $366,000, apparently at least partly as a result of the huge projected drop in the guideline harvest level for 2013. The 2013 preliminary GHL is set at 11,055 tons, down from a record GHL of 28,829 tons in 2012. However, less than half of the 2012 GHL was caught, with only 13,534 tons harvested. 

Processing capacity and the rapid spawning of the biomass both played a roll in falling so short of the quota.

 

The Associated Press reports that the first tuna auction of 2013 in Japan saw the record sale of a 489 pound bluefin tuna for an astonishing $1.76 million, making it the most expensive fish ever purchased. 

The winning bidder is the same Tokyo restauranteur, Kiyoshi Kimura, who had set the previous record last January in the ceremonial first sale of the year, buying a 593 pound bluefin for a relatively paltry $1,241 per pound, or $736,000. 

This year’s sale far eclipses that buy at  $3,599 per pound.

Last year Japan was recovering from the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, and was the first time in several years that the sale had gone to a Japanese buyer.

Kimura, who operates the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain, said of this year’s buy, ‘‘the price was a bit high,’’ but that he wanted to ‘‘encourage Japan,’’ according to Kyodo News agency. He was planning to serve the fish to customers later that day. 

As for the 2012 fish, he said, “Japan has been through a lot the last year due to the disaster. Japan needs to hang in there. So I tried hard myself and ended up buying the most expensive one.” 

Stocks of all three bluefin species, the Pacific, Southern and Atlantic, have fallen over the past 15 years amid overfishing. 

Stocks of bluefin caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean plunged by 60 percent between 1997 and 2007 due to rampant, often illegal overfishing and lax quotas. Although there has been some improvement in recent years, experts say the outlook for the species is still fragile.

In November, the 48 member nations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT, voted to maintain strict catch limits on the species, although some countries argued for higher limits. The quota will be allowed to rise slightly from 12,900 metric tons a year to 13,500. Quotas were as high as 32,000 tons in 2006.  

 

Cristy Fry has commercial fished out of Homer and King Cove since 1978. She can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

 

 

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