During its regular meeting Monday afternoon, the Petersburg Borough Assembly took no action at all on Resolution 2013-7, which is a resolution supporting Senate Bill 60 introduced in the twenty-eighth legislature of the State of Alaska for an act relating to sea otter population management by the implementation of a bounty on sea otters.
Senate Bill 60, if enacted, would add a new section to AS 16.35 titled "Bounty on Sea Otters," and reads, "The department shall pay a person $100 for each sea otter the person lawfully takes under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and for which the person submits proof of taking satisfactory to the department."
Kupreanof resident Joan Kautzer spoke out on this issue.
"Commercial fishing is all about competition," Kautzer stated. "We compete with each other, we compete with the weather, fuel prices and other species."
Kautzer explained that while she is sympathetic to the crabbers and divers, every commercial fishery has its nuisances and competition.
"Trollers have sea lions, long liners have orcas and gill netters have humpbacks that rip up their nets," she stated. "None of these gear types have bounties on their competing species. Bounties were an archaic and misguided policy in the last century and there is no place for them in this century."
Kautzer states that, in her opinion, the biggest threat to crab and dive fisheries is ocean acidification.
"As we all know, an acidic ocean impedes the calcification of invertebrate shells," Kautzer stated. "The ocean is becoming more acidic because of CO2 emissions."
Kautzer also states that just as the land forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, kelp forests absorb CO2 from the ocean.
"Sea otters are a keystone species for the near shore environment in the southeast," she stated. "They are critically important for the health of kelp forests for they eat urchins who in turn wipe out the kelp."
According to Kautzer, the Humane Society and the Center for Biological Diversity are closely watching this bill.
"If this bill passes, it will be really bad press for Alaskan fishermen," she stated. "It will also taint the beautiful traditional handicrafts made by Alaskan Natives. Instead of art sewn with respect for the animal, it will be stigmatized by the mercenary nature of the bounty."
She states that the sea otter population cannot explode like feral cats because they can only have one pup per year.
Kautzer closed with, "There should be some question of putting a state bounty on a federally protected species."
The Assembly did not make a motion to put the issue to discussion and no action was taken.