The Alaska Board of Fisheries today begins a tedious, two-day session to clarify how it defines the expression "subsistence way of life."
This isn't just an academic exercise. A Fairbanks judge ordered this.
The weekend board meeting is the latest twist in an old struggle over the question of whether the dipnet fishery at Chitina should be classified as a subsistence fishery or a "personal use" fishery.
Why does this matter?
Well, commercial salmon fishermen at the mouth of the Copper River, downstream of Chitina, greatly fear a subsistence designation because that would give dipnetters a priority to the fish.
Superior Court Judge Michael MacDonald, in his Dec. 31 ruling, stopped short of overturning the board's 2003 action classifying the dipnet fishery as personal use, not subsistence.
But the judge said the board had failed to properly apply a key provision in state law that refers to the "subsistence way of life."
The judge ordered the board to define "subsistence way of life," and then reapply the law.
So, the board will meet today and tomorrow at the Hilton hotel in downtown Anchorage to work on its definition and take public testimony. Presumably, each of the seven board members will have a dictionary and thesaurus close at hand.
All kidding aside, this is a hot issue. The board received nearly 100 written public comments prior to the meeting.