The North Pacific Fishery Management Council and its advisory committees begin a special meeting today at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, and only one item of business is on the agenda: the federal government's new slate of commercial fishing restrictions to protect endangered Steller sea lions.
We're beginning to get a sense now of the significant pain the proposed Aleutian Islands closures will inflict on some industry players and communities.
For a taste of the concerns, here's a packet of letters the council received ahead of the meeting.
Among the worries:
• Millions of dollars worth of cod and Atka mackerel harvests could be lost each year.
• Vessels accustomed to fishing the Aleutians could be forced to crowd into other areas with plenty of boats and Steller sea lion worries of their own.
• Efforts to convert the former naval base on Adak, in the central Aleutians, into a civilian fishing town could be badly damaged, not only because of diminished deliveries of fish to the island's lone processing plant but also lost fuel sales to the fishing fleet. In the words of one fisherman, "Adak got whacked."
Deckboss must point out, however, that some interests support the government's proposed fishing restrictions, which could take effect after the first of the year regardless of whether the council endorses them this week.
What's more, some folks are asking for a wider trawling ban around one Steller sea lion haulout on St. George Island in the Bering Sea.