Deckboss spent a couple of hours yesterday hanging around the North Pacific Fishery Management Council proceedings in downtown Anchorage.
Here are a few scribbles from my notebook:
• The fishing industry rolled out an alternative to the suite of proposed Aleutian Islands closures the National Marine Fisheries Service says is necessary to protect endangered Steller sea lions. The industry aims to scale back the closures, and is hoping NMFS will go along. For example, in management area 543 way out at the western end of the Aleutian chain, the industry proposal would allow some commercial harvest of cod and Atka mackerel, whereas the government would simply shut down those fisheries.
• The fishing restrictions have one famous Seattle-based seafood purveyor, Ivar's, seriously worried. In a letter to the council, Ivar's President Bob Donegan says diners will suffer if one of his major fish suppliers, a factory trawler named the Katie Ann, is no longer able to catch the large western Aleutian cod the restaurant chain prefers.
• Don't look for the council to make any grand statement at this meeting about whether it agrees or disagrees with the restrictions NMFS is proposing. Rather, the council is likely to respectfully ask NMFS to make some changes to help the industry, which says some boats could go out of business due to the closures. NMFS is scheduled to present its final set of sea lion restrictions in October after considering council and public input.
• A really big fish from the political world, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, is scheduled to make a campaign, uh, policy appearance before the council at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Sorry, Deckboss couldn't resist a little quip there, as he just hates elections. Anyway, the Alaska Republican is expected to deliver a rather important point: That the federal government seems to be rushing the sea lion restrictions into place. It was only on Aug. 2 that NMFS unveiled its intense, 836-page "biological opinion" of the impacts of commercial fishing on the Stellers, and the agency seems intent on implementing the closures early next year.
• Of course, council action will be suspended this afternoon so people can attend the memorial service for Sen. Ted Stevens.