Sen. Bjorkman reintroduces set-net buyback bill
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.