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Native Fishermen's Group Seeks To Close Unalaska Bay To Commercial Trawl Fishing

Mar 5, 2016

A view of Unalaska Bay, with Cape Cheerful in the far distance.
Credit Greta Mart

A proposal to permanently close Unalaska Bay to commercial trawl fishing is up for discussion at an upcoming Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting.

The statewide meeting takes place the second week of March in Anchorage, and Qawalangin tribal president Tom Robinson will be there to testify. He will be speaking on behalf of the Unalaska Native Fishermen's Association (UNFA).

Robinson says this is UNFA's third attempt since 2008 to get the proposal - numbered 194 - passed by the Board. In 2013, the Unalaska City Council passed a resolution supporting the plan to close Unalaska Bay to groundfish fishing with trawl gear year-round.

According to that resolution, the Council recognized "the influx of trawlers into this very small area during the summer has negatively impacted local residents who are engaged in commercial, subsistence and sport fishing activities in the Unalaska Bay area."

"194 is going to be a big one for folks," at next week's meeting, said Board of Fisheries executive director Glenn Haight.

Proposal 194 seeks to "close all waters of Unalaska Bay to commercial fishing for groundfish with pelagic trawl gear." In the proposal, UNFA writes, "trawlers have harvested approximately four million pounds annually of pollock from Unalaska Bay over the past ten plus years...it has become nearly impossible for local fishermen and hunters to feed their families."

Besides 194, Haight said that for Unalaska residents, other key proposals up for discussion this week are outlined in the groundfish section of the meeting's "road map," found on the Board of Fisheries website under meeting information.

One wants to "clarify possession and landing requirements for Pacific cod and walleye pollock" and another seeks to establish new management plans for "state waters walleye pollock jig fishery" in the Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands district along with other Southwest Alaskan fishing grounds.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries Statewide Finfish meeting is on March 8-11 2016 at the Anchorage Hilton.