Seafood testing, exotic species bills among those of interest to Alaska fishermen

PHOTO/Rob Stapleton/AJOC
welchlanieLR.jpg Alaska lawmakers are already putting forth bills that are of interest to the fishing industry. For example, testing seafood for safety will become more timely and convenient if Gov. Tony Knowles’ request for a new laboratory is granted by Alaska lawmakers.

fishfactor.jpg House Bill 51 would authorize the State Bond Committee to issue the necessary paperwork for a lease-purchase agreement for a new facility with a maximum cost of $13.6 million. Currently, a single lab in Palmer tests shellfish and other foods from across Alaska.

"The laboratory facility is now outdated and woefully inadequate, and will have to relocate in any case when its current lease expires in the near future," Knowles wrote in a statement that accompanied the bill. The Legislature has previously approved design and planning funds for a new testing facility.

Also, anyone who introduces an "exotic" species of fish into state waters could be hit with a fine of up to $50,000 if Rep. Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage, has his way. Halcro has asked the House Special Committee on Fisheries to sponsor the proposal, referring to the continued spread of Northern pike and yellow perch in Southcentral.

Pike were put into the waters more than 20 years ago and are voracious eaters of salmon, trout and other native species. More recently, yellow perch have been found in lakes on the Kenai Peninsula and further north. Halcro’s bill would fine a person from $10,000 to $50,000 per occurrence for releasing a nonindigenous species into public waters. The misdemeanor conviction could also result in a jail term for up to one year.

The bill has the support of Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Frank Rue, who called the pike problem one of the biggest threats in sustaining stocks of salmon, trout, char and grayling in the area.

According to the weekly report "Laws for the Sea," Rue noted that a variety of exotic fish beside pike or perch have been found in Southcentral waters. He said goldfish and koi, an Alaska blackfish that is not native to the Anchorage bowl, and one 12-inch specimen of a pacu, which he described as a "vegetarian relative of piranha" have been caught in recent years.

More health news

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that eating fish can cut the risk of a stroke in half. Researchers at Harvard University’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital tracked the eating habits and medical records of nearly 80,000 women for 14 years. After taking age and smoking into account, they found that women who ate five portions of oily fish each week cut their risk of having a stroke by 52 percent.

The study also found that eating just one portion of oily fish a week cuts the risk of stroke by 22 percent.

The study reports that oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to have a number of health benefits. Omega-3s are credited with slowing the growth of tumors, easing arthritis and asthma, promoting fetal brain development, boosting the immune system and slowing effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study found that eating oily fish was particularly helpful in reducing thrombotic infarction, a type of stroke in which a blood clot blocks an artery in the brain. reports that the Harvard study is one of the first to provide definitive proof of a protective role for fish in cardiovascular disease. According to federal data, Americans eat only about 1.3 servings of any type of seafood each week.

Fewer fatalities

The Coast Guard reports that 26 vessels and nine lives were lost last year, down from 32 boats and 17 lives lost in 1999. Overall, fires were blamed for the loss of 10 of the vessels, nine boats sank, and alcohol was a suspect in at least two losses. The decline in fatalities could be due in part to the postponement of the snow crab fishery from January to April, which reduced the havoc caused by winter storms.

Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached by e-mail at ([email protected]).

02/03/2001 - 8:00pm