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Sen. Bjorkman reintroduces set-net buyback bill

The next Board of Fisheries meeting on Upper Cook Inlet is 2024.
Redoubt Reporter
Permit holders would first have to vote on whether they'd want to set up such a program, which would buy back permits for $260,000 a piece.

Nikiski Republican Sen. Jesse Bjorkman is taking up a long-fought set-net buyback bill in the Alaska Legislature this session.

Senate Bill 82, introduced by Bjorkman Friday, would give Cook Inlet east side set-netters a chance to sell back their set-net permits to the state. That would reduce the number of commercial set-net fishermen on the east side of the inlet and give fishermen a chance to sell out of the fishery — which has been under stress for years among recurring closures and is becoming less and less economically viable for permit holders.

The bill is a new version of legislation Peter Micciche sponsored, twice, when he represented Soldotna in the Alaska Senate. Bjorkman — a fisherman with two current Cook Inlet drift permits — said over text Friday it’s the same bill “with very minor differences.”

Previous versions of the bill have gotten wide support from set-netters, who say a buy-back would create a more sustainable fishery for remaining fishermen.

Permit holders first have to vote on whether they want such a program established, and find a funding mechanism. The program would be voluntary and fishermen would enter in a lottery. The state could buy back no more than 200 permits, or about half the permits in the fishery.

The program would buy permits for about $260,000, which is about 16 times their current value, according to data from the state.

Bjorkman will be at the Kenai Peninsula Borough building tomorrow at 10 a.m. for a town hall.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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