By Jenny Neyman
There are a lot of ifs involved in whether or not a commercial fishing season is successful — if the fishermen have all the necessary gear, crew, permits and equipment ready to go, plus the knowledge and experience of how best to use them; if fishery managers open opportunities to fish; if the fish arrive in decent numbers and in times and places coinciding with fishing openings; and if there’s a market offering decent prices for the catch.
Likewise, there are a lot of ifs involved in whether or not fishermen affected by the low king runs to Cook Inlet this summer — primarily, the east side set-netters whose July sockeye season was shut down in order to protect the king returns to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers — will get any economic relief through the federal disaster declaration process.
The difference being, fishermen know the ifs involved in fishing, whereas the ifs of the disaster declaration process have been as speculative as the causes behind what’s happening with the declining kings.
A meeting hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association on Friday at Grace Brethren Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road was meant to explain the unknowns of the declaration process, with Susan Bell, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development; Gretchen Harrington, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service; and Stefanie Moreland, senior adviser for fisheries, oceans and Arctic policy with Gov. Sean Parnell’s office. Jim Butler, local attorney and commercial fisherman, moderated the question-and-answer discussion between the panel and the crowd of more than 100 fishermen, elected officials and agency representatives.