Story last updated at 3:22 p.m. Thursday, May 27, 2004

Trail Lakes hatchery fry to be released, judge says

Seawatch

Cristy Fry
A ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Singleton has granted a one-time reprieve to 6 million salmon fry waiting to begin their journey into the Kasilof River drainage this summer. The fry are currently being raised at the Trail Lakes Hatchery, and have been in limbo due to a suit that was filed by the Wilderness Society against the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to halt the stocking program. The suit claims that stocking constitutes commercial activity inside a national wilderness area, which is prohibited under the 1964 Wilderness Act. The case has been going around in lower courts since 1998, all of which ruled in favor of the USFWS. However, when it reached the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, those rulings were overturned, and resulted in Singleton permanently preventing the USFWS from issuing permits for the stocking program inside the wilderness area. He allowed for an exception for this year only, which allows the fry already hatched to be released rather than destroyed.

Governor Frank Murkowski signed legislation to streamline and reorganize the board of directors of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. In a press release, Murkowski said, " the international fishing industry has changed significantly in the past decade, and it is critical that Alaska's leading fish marketing organization evolves to meet those changes as well. We salute the outgoing members of the ASMI board for their outstanding work on behalf of Alaska's seafood industry, and look forward to working with the new board to carry their work forward." The legislation includes a number of provisions designed to improve Alaska's seafood marketing efforts. It reduces the board from 25 members to seven, and calls on seafood processors to vote whether to increase their voluntary assessment for marketing of all fish species from .03 percent to .05 percent. Passage of that increase would end the current 1 percent assessment for salmon. If the increase fails to pass, the salmon assessment would remain and the ASMI board would expand to nine members. These changes have been several years in the making, and great credit is due to Sens. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, who helped bring the process to completion. They held a number of meetings of the Alaska Salmon Task Force around the state, collecting information and building consensus that led to the reorganization we ve achieved today, Murkowski said. The new members of the board are: Don Giles of Icicle Seafoods, term expiring in 2007; Barry Collier, of Peter Pan Seafoods, term expiring in 2006; Mark Palmer, of OceanBeauty Seafoods, term expiring in 2006; Joe Bundrant, of Trident Seafoods, term expiring in 2005; Duncan Fields, of Kodiak Salmon Packers, term expiring in 2007; Kevin Adams, Bristol Bay fisherman, term expiring in 2007; Bruce Wallace, Southeast Alaska fisherman, term expiring in 2005. Murkowski stated, "with this new board, and with the potential for new revenue contained in this bill, I am confident we will see a smooth transition that will mean the good news about the benefits of wild Alaska seafood will be heard clearly and effectively throughout the world."

Kodiak is expecting a record turnout for the annual Kodiak Crab Festival, which begins today and runs through Monday. The increase in interest is mainly attributed to a Food Network special, "Wild About Kodiak Seafood Cook-off," taped at a previous Crab Festival and aired in October of 2003 and March of this year. Kodiak Island Convention and Visitor's Bureau information coordinator Cheryl Nugent told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that each time the show aired, the bureau was inundated by calls and e-mails from people eager to travel to Kodiak. "People were crazy about Kodiak and just wanted to visit," Nugent said. The festival features parades, Coast Guard search and rescue demonstrations, a survival suit race, a blessing of the fleet, a fisherman's memorial service, and a number of arts-related activities. This year s Crab Fest also includes a visit from the USS Milius, expected in Kodiak on May 29. It is home-ported in San Diego and is the 19th of the Navy's new class of Arleigh Burke Guided Missile Destroyers. The Alaska Marine Highway is offering additional sailings to accommodate the crowd. Both the Kennicott and the Tustumena will sail to allow more space for rides, equipment and passengers. For more information about the Crab Fest, visit the city of Kodiak Web site at http://www.kodiak.org/.

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