A suggestion before the Legislature to institute a special fee for sport and personal-use sockeye salmon fishing in Alaska is getting a stamp of approval from Kenai-area constituents.
The House Resources Committee heard testimony last month on a measure to create a sockeye fishing stamp during discussion of House Bill 137, which would raise the state's hunting, fishing and trapping fees across the board.
The idea is for a new sockeye salmon stamp patterned after the king salmon stamp already in use in Alaska. Anglers wanting to harvest sockeyes through sport fishing or personal-use fishing would need to purchase a sockeye stamp along with their fishing license.
Under the fee structure currently in effect, a sockeye stamp — just like a king stamp — would cost $10 for Alaska residents. For nonresidents, the cost would be $10 for a one-day stamp, $20 for a three-day stamp, $30 for a 14-day stamp and $100 for an annual tag.
If HB 137 is adopted, those fees would increase to $15 for a resident stamp, and range from $15 to $150 for nonresident stamps.
The money raised from sockeye stamps would help shoulder the financial burden of the increasing level of participation in the popular sockeye salmon fisheries in the state, particularly in the Copper, Kasilof and Kenai rivers.
Ted Wellman, president of the Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory (KRSMA) Board, testified in favor of the idea.
"Since 1997, river use has grown exponentially, both the boat traffic and on-bank use. The primary reason for the increased use is the growing harvest of sockeye salmon, which imposes a significant burden on enforcement agencies and stresses the environment habitat throughout the entire system. Accordingly, the Kenai KRSMA Board identified the adoption of a sockeye salmon stamp this year as a priority to provide adequate resources to handle the burden," Wellman said.
Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, as well as a KRSMA board member and a member of the Gov. Bill Walker's transition team for fisheries, testified via letter that all three groups support the creation of a statewide sockeye salmon stamp.
And Joe Connors, another member of the KRSMA board, but speaking on his own behalf as owner of a fishing lodge and guide service on the Kenai for more than 35 years, also urged the House committee to support a sockeye stamp.
"In the middle river where I live, it's an incredible increase of use, and that puts a lot of burden on the resource owners. We find just people everywhere — places that, five years ago, they never would have been, they just keep coming into our area, and it's certainly reasonable to expect them to pay some money so that we can take care of the habitat, take care of the infrastructure, have enforcement," Connors said.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Reps. Wes Keller, Cathy Munoz and David Talerico passed out of House Resources with questions on the financial impact of various amendments. House Finance will take it up next.