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Feds take control of AK waters.

THE U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT assumed regulatory control of about half of Alaska's waters on October 1 after the state legislature failed to meet federal requirements to give natives and rural residents priority over other users to fish for subsistence food needs. The action affects all waters on Alaska's federal public land, including prime trout and steelhead streams such as the Kanektok, Goodnews, Situk, and Alagnak rivers. The state retains regulatory control of waters on state and private land, but because of the migratory nature of trout and salmon, the state harvest limits will be, in many cases, subservient to subsistence use.

The move was anticipated and could restrict even catch-and-release fishing. (See "On the Brink," by Wilson A. Rice, FFM, May 1999, Forum, page 22.) In 1980, the federal government required the state to give rural residents (mostly natives) first access to game, or let federal regulators take control of the game management. The feds took over management of all hunting on federal lands in 1990. A federal court later expanded the federal control to include fish on federal public land, and said that rainbow trout and steelhead could be targeted for subsistence harvest.

The state had passed a law to avoid the federal takeovers, but the Alaska Supreme Court in 1989 ruled the law unconstitutional. The feds delayed implementation of the fisheries management takeover until October 1 in order to give the state legislature time to approve a measure to let voters amend the constitution and allow rural residents priority for subsistence. When the legislature failed to pass an amendment that would have allowed voters to change the constitution, the feds took control. Sport and commercial fishermen have no formal representation in the federal regulatory process.

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Title Annotation:Alaskan fishing laws
Publication:Fly Fisherman
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Feb 1, 2000
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