By CRAIG MEDRED
Yet again, Alaska appears to be gearing up for a big fight focused on one of the state’s smallest commercial fisheries.
The United Fishermen of Alaska, one of the most politically powerful organizations in the north, over the weekend posted an “Action Alert” calling on its members to oppose the appointment of Karl Johnstone based on his actions when he served the BOF (Board of Fisheries) from 2008-2015.
Appointed to the Board again on the first of the month by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Johnstone this weeks starts confirmation hearings before the Alaska Legislature.
A retired Alaska Superior Court judge, Johnstone was generally well-respected by the majority of commercial, personal-use, subsistence and sport fishermen across the breadth of the state when he earlier served on the Board, but he stirred emotions in Cook Inlet.
The Inlet supports a comparatively small commercial fishery over which Alaskans fight a lot.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is projecting a statewide, commercial harvest of 213.2 million salmon this year. About 7.2 million of those fish, or about 3 percent of the total harvest, is expected to come from the Inlet.
And the Upper Inlet – where the real battle is focused on harvests of red (sockeye), silver (coho), and king (Chinook) salmon – is forecast to have a commercial catch of about 3.5 million or less than 2 percent of the statewide harvest.
But the Inlet is where the UFA – now led by Matt Alward, a commercial net maker from the community of Homer at the foot of the Inlet – appears to have drawn the line on Johnstone.
The stage for the National Geographic television show “Alaska Fish Wars,” the Inlet is a 220-mile-long finger of the Gulf of Alaska stabbing into the urban underbelly of the state. Lapping first at the doorstep of Anchorage, it washes north to the edge of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.