After three attempts over the past decade, the Unalaska Native Fishermen's Association succeeded in an effort to close Unalaska Bay to commercial trawl fishing.
On Thursday the Alaska Board of Fisheries passed Proposal 194 by a six to one vote. The Unalaska Native Fishermen's Association - known as UNFA - put forward the proposal, which sought to "close all waters of Unalaska Bay to commercial fishing for groundfish with pelagic trawl gear."
In his comments to a Board of Fisheries meeting in February, UNFA member Walter Tellman said the area that will now be closed to commercial trawling has become depleted due to overfishing. He also said subsistence fishers in skiffs are no longer able to find enough salmon, halibut and other fish inside the Bay to meet their needs.
In Proposal 194, UNFA writes "it has become nearly impossible for local fishermen and hunters to feed their families."
At the Dec. 16, 2015 meeting of the Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Alaska Fish and Game Advisory Committee, local members voted unanimously not to support the proposal. According to the minutes of that meeting, seafood industry representatives said commercial operators were tired of making concessions. Icicle Seafoods Fleet Manger Dan Martin said four processors participated in the fishery in 2015 and harvested 14 million pounds of pollock from Unalaska Bay. The minutes also detail that member Frank Kelty noted that no UNFA members were present at that meeting.
Past proposals put forth by UNFA resulted in Unalaska Bay being closed to commercial trawling from June 10 through August 30 each year.
In early 2013, the Unalaska City Council voted in support of the trawl ban. KUCB reported at the time there was considerable public testimony to and internal debate within the city council over the decision, but the resolution in support acknowledged that "local residents have long voiced concerns regarding bycatch of salmon and halibut as well as habitat impacts."