January 9, 2014 | Volume 44, Number 1

State upholds fishing license deal

In a Dec. 12 letter, the commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game formally denied a petition by the Upper Lynn Canal Advisory Board to rescind a reciprocal agreement that allows Yukon Territory residents the same price as Alaskans for fishing licenses.

The agreement allows Alaskans to buy fishing licenses in the Yukon at the same price charged residents there.

The letter from commissioner Cora Crome largely defending a state law enacted in 2005 may put the issue to rest, for now. Complaints about overfishing by Canadians have persisted in Haines for decades.

“The issue is dead, unless somebody wants to bring it up again, as far as I’m concerned. But I’m just an individual,” said Tim McDonough, chair of the local committee that represents Haines and Klukwan to the state boards of fisheries and wildlife.

The committee said the arrangement was costing the state between $200,000 and $350,000 per year, a number that Crome countered, saying the department estimates the cost to the state at about $50,000.

Crome said that during committee hearings on the proposed arrangement in 2003, Fish and Game reported 2,700 Yukoners had bought fishing licenses. From 2005 to 2012, 2,200 licenses were sold to Yukoners annually. While the two figures aren’t directly comparable because multiple types of non-resident licenses are available, “the number of licenses sold since 2005 does not indicate a substantive increase” in Yukoners fishing here, Crome said.

McDonough said the disparity between the two estimates of the cost of the program to the state may owe to the local committee’s use of seasonal licenses, and the state’s inclusion of less expensive licenses for shorter periods of time.

Crome’s letter also mentioned support of the reciprocal arrangement from the Alaska Chamber of Commerce and from Haines and Skagway. “Repeal of the licensing regulation may hurt, as opposed to help, tourism in the Lynn Canal area.”

Crome recommended further efforts for rescinding the arrangement be directed to the Alaska Legislature.

Local committee members also have expressed concerns about the harvest by Yukon anglers, but local Fish and Game biologists have said they don’t have information to show the take is negatively impacting local runs.

McDonough said he didn’t know if the reciprocal agreement was a concern for Alaskans outside of Lynn Canal.