Happy New Year, fellow residents. The Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center was closed for two weeks over the holidays but I was in the office quite a bit, staying ahead of the work I knew would pile up, and getting those things done that could not wait for my “holiday” to be over.
This week I’m writing a letter, approved by the full Board of Directors, that opposes Alaska Board of Fisheries Proposals 138, 139, 140, 142 and 143 coming up for review at the end of the month.
Never heard of them? You should take interest because if they’re approved it would mean that the closest commercial drift fishing grounds to Homer would be closed. The approximate 100 boats making up the drift fleet based in Homer would have to drive their boats north to the Kenai area to fish, or physically relocate there.
And that would really hurt our commercial fishing sector, and our town’s economy, as a result.
There have been times in the past when the chamber has advocated in favor of an issue that appeared to pit sport fishing charter interests against commercial fishing interests. The mandate of the chamber as a 501(C)(6) organization is that it can, and should, advocate for the best interests of all its members. Recent boards have become more proactive in that way, and less timid toward controversy. I’ve been part of that because I agree with it.
While we no longer have any commercial fishing members, the Marine Trades Association is still a member of the chamber. We work together on some projects (like staffing at the Seattle Boat Show where we help man the Alaska Harbormasters Association booth).
I’ve taken my father’s advice here about handling differences between one person (or group) and another: “Keep the lines of communication open.”
Do we have our differences? Yes. But for the chamber to sit on its hands when potential damage threatens one of the most important sectors of our economy, and in turn our town, we’d be doing something that no civic organization should ever consider: Watch the financial health of our city crumble because of our differences.
The board and I will never do that. We’re all in this together and even though the relationship can be tough at times, our city’s economic health is at stake.
My best to you all.
Jim Lavrakas is the executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce.