Among the 73 proposals before the state Board of Fisheries this week are several the address permit stacking for both set-netters and drift fishermen.
In public testimony so far, fishermen have been divided on whether or not that would be a good thing for the fishery.
Dillingham resident Robin Samuelson is a former board of fish member who has been drift fishing his whole life. During public testimony, he said he doesn’t want fishermen to be allowed to use more than one permit.
“I’m against all these stacking proposals,” he said. “I have two permits. I do stack on my boat. I don’t like it. I’ve never liked stacking permits. This stuff today is just going to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”
Samuelson said he thinks the permit system itself isn’t working in Bristol Bay.
“If you’re a Alaska Native living in rural Alaska, there’s only two things you have that people want,” he said. “That’s a native allotment and that’s a permit, a set or drift permit. The permit situation in Bristol Bay is broken. In my lifetime, I aim to see limited entry going away in Bristol Bay if we cant turn it around. It’s getting that bad.”
But others said that allowing one person to use more than one permit is a way to make fishing more viable, particularly when prices are low. Kelly Stier said he thought permit stacking could help make the fishery more valuable by actually reducing the amount of gear in the water.
“My hope is to see Bristol Bay an economically viable environment for years and generations to come,” Stier said. “Reducing the amount of gear in the water is the best way to ensure that every boat can generate the most from the fish we catch. Permit stacking has more support now than any previous board cycle, both in and outside the watershed.”
Egegik fisherman Tom Huffer had a different idea: let each district decide for itself.
“I’m in support of the stacking deal. Stacking permits for setnetters in Egegik,” he said. “If the Nushagak doesn’t want it, leave it up to the Nushagak. If we want it, why can’t we have it?”
Fishermen also offered mixed views on transfer requirements. Right now, a fisherman must register in the district he wants to fish in — after a free week. Getting rid of that free week, and changing other regulations related to district transfers, is another contentious issue.
Public testimony is expected to continue Thursday, and more discussion on transfer times and permit stacking is tentatively on the agenda for Friday.