As a commercial fisherman and Alaska resident, I believe it is my responsibility to vote in the upcoming general election, and to make the most informed vote possible. The results of this election will have direct effects on my livelihood and long-lasting implications for my two teenage boys who have been commercial fishing since they were infants. What sort of future and opportunities do I want to pass on to them? What do I want their Alaska to look like? That is why I took the time to understand Ballot Measure 1/Stand for Salmon, and why I would like to take this opportunity to share with you what I have learned.
First, I’ll start with what Ballot Measure 1 does:
Ballot Measure 1 shifts the burden of proof to developers to make sure salmon in streams are considered during the permitting process. Right now anyone who wants to ensure that anadromous fish are considered in the permitting process have to prove, mile by mile, that fish are present in the stream. This places the financial burden on Alaskans and our state agencies who care about salmon.
Ballot Measure 1 establishes, for the first time, the standards on which to judge the presence or absence of adverse impacts to anadromous fish associated with a proposed project. At present, those standards do not exist. In the absence of standards, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s commissioner faces the very real possibility of a judge considering a decision against issuing a permit to be arbitrary and capricious — a risk that commissioners are generally and understandably not willing to take. So the developers — not Alaska salmon and all of us who depend on them — are the ones who always get the benefit of the doubt.
Now for what Ballot Measure 1 DOES NOT do:
Ballot Measure 1 does not “manage fisheries or natural resources by initiative.” Rather, it strengthens protection for anadromous fish habitat in Alaska. Managing fisheries and protecting habitat are fundamentally different, which Alaska state law makes clear. Ballot Measure 1 does not touch the more than 400 pages of world-renowned fisheries management law that governs fisheries harvest in Alaska.
Ballot Measure 1 DOES NOT have the potential to close down fisheries near the mouths of anadromous fish streams. Again, Ballot measure 1 DOES NOT impact fish harvesting; it protects habitat.
My vote YES on Ballot Measure 1 will be a vote for science-based decision-making, a vote for salmon, and a vote for the Alaska I want to pass on to my boys. I will vote yes for salmon on Nov. 6 and urge other Alaskans to do the same.
• Linda Behnken lives in Sitka, Alaska where she fishes for salmon, halibut, and sablefish on the F/V Woodstock with her husband and two sons. She is also Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and on the Boards of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, Halibut Coalition and Island Institute. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.