Whether we catch salmon with a hook or a net, we Kodiakans know that salmon is vital to island living. But did you know how important it is to take the time to explain this to the seven members of the Alaska Board of Fisheries? It is. And they will be here this weekend to hear from all of us — students and teachers, construction workers and barristas, bankers and mechanics, parents and grocers, nurses and cannery workers, waitresses and elected officials, deckhands and skippers — that salmon is important to us people of Kodiak and has been for thousands of years.
Here’s how it all works: The seven Board of Fish members are holding a four-day meeting at the Kodiak Convention Center to listen to the public before they decide whether or not to make changes to the way the Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages Kodiak’s salmon and herring fisheries. We members of the public each will get three minutes at the microphone to explain why we support or oppose a particular proposal or, for example, to let them know the importance of salmon to the Kodiak economy.
This public process was established by the Alaska Constitution at statehood and is essential to Alaska’s sustainable fisheries. Indeed, it is an outstanding example of an open public process. But it only works if the public participates. I served on the Alaska Board of Fish for six years and came to know this is so.
Board members depend on the public in every region of the state to inform them about the particulars of each fishery. And when they are here, they will carefully listen to us Kodiak islanders to get a better understanding of how any of the changes they will vote on at this meeting would help or harm us individually and/or Kodiak as a whole. They also will hear individuals other regions of Alaska who will urge the Board of Fish to make changes to Kodiak’s salmon plan in hopes of enhancing their own fisheries by decreasing the amount of salmon available for Kodiak.
I’ve heard it said that public speaking is one of the most stressful things a person can do. No doubt about it. I don’t like it either. But think of it this way: It is only three minutes of your life. If you need a boost, call a fisherman friend. Or fish biologist friend. Or you can call me. I’m in the book.