Land Reborn:
A History of Administration and Visitor Use in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
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Chapter XIV:
Commercial Fishing

In recent years the problem of commercial fishing has loomed over other management issues in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. It has been the foremost concern of Superintendent Marvin Jensen almost since his coming to the park early in 1988. Superintendent Tollefson twice referred to it as an "underlying" or "unresolved" issue in the mid-1980s. In one sense, this issue is rooted in the wilderness protections set out in ANILCA and the temporary humpback whale regulations promulgated in that same year (1980). In another sense, it was an incipient problem from the time the monument was created.

More than most administrative issues in the history of this park, NPS management of commercial fishing has been buffeted and pushed along by new laws, legal disputes, and regulations which addressed the issue only peripherally or on a Service-wide basis and were not necessarily sensitive to local conditions. It has been the task of superintendents Chapman, Tollefson, and especially Jensen to mediate between this legal and regulatory framework on the one hand and local interests on the other.

Historical Development of the Commercial Fishery

The commercial fishery in Glacier Bay was old but never very big. The Bartlett Bay Packing Company built the only cannery in Glacier Bay in Bartlett Cove in 1890, reportedly packed 4,300 cases, and suspended operations a year later when icebergs clogged the cove. A cannery in Dundas Bay, built in 1900, changed hands three times and closed in 1931. Two canneries were located in Excursion Inlet; one closed in 1935 and the other burned in 1948. [1] Two fish traps were located in monument waters in Icy Strait off Point Dundas and Point Gustavus, a crab fishery developed in Dundas and Glacier bays in the 1940s, and commercial fishing for halibut began probably about the same time, while the earliest report of shrimp fishing in Glacier Bay was in 1952. [2] All four types of fishing--salmon, halibut, crab, and shrimp--remained at low levels in Glacier and Dundas bays into the 1970s, although king and Dungeness crab could be overharvested by as few as three or four boats operating in the monument in a given year. [3]

Harvesting of crab and halibut in Glacier Bay intensified in the early 1980s. Most of the people who fished in Glacier Bay appeared to be local residents--a large percentage of them newcomers to the region--who lived in Gustavus, Hoonah, Elfin Cove, Pelican, and other nearby communities. Many of them would later insist, in workshops and at public hearings conducted by the Park Service, that they fished in Glacier Bay because they enjoyed the setting, not because the harvests were particularly good. But some fishermen undoubtedly came from farther away, looking for new fishing grounds as a result of growing pressure on the whole southeast Alaska fishery. They had to cope with a shorter and shorter halibut fishing season, which the International Halibut Commission had had to reduce from 128 days in 1975 to just five days in 1982. On opening day in 1982 some fifty halibut longliners could be seen in Glacier Bay, and the following year an estimated one hundred vessels pulled approximately 300,000 to 400,000 pounds of halibut from bay waters. Meanwhile, a record number of crab pot fishermen entered the bay in search of Dungeness and tanner crab, mostly during the intervening winter. [4]

While the Glacier Bay fishery remained relatively small with the exception of the short, intense halibut season, salmon trolling on the outer coast within the three-mile limit was a big, long-established industry. In the mid-1960s, during one trip to the outer coast aboard Nunatak, NPS officials counted fifty fishing boats in Lituya Bay, and estimated that 175 to 185 vessels were fishing in monument waters between Cape Spencer and Sea Otter Creek. [5] While its harvest estimates were admittedly sketchy, the ADF&G claimed that the total value of all fisheries in the park between 1986 and 1989 amounted to more than $14,000,000, most of which came from the outer coast. [6]

Evolution of an NPS Fisheries Policy

The Park Service was slow to develop a fisheries policy. The longstanding policy of wildlife protection did not extend to fishes, which were traditionally viewed as a resource for sport fishermen more than an integral component of the natural ecosystem. Indeed, in many parks the NPS stocked backcountry lakes and streams with exotic species, and gave little consideration to the agency's goal of preserving natural conditions as it applied to aquatic environments. How to manage the national park system's few saltwater areas received even less attention than that given to freshwater habitats. [7]

The earliest discussion of a fisheries policy for Glacier Bay National Monument was probably the recommendation by Victor H. Cahalane, chief of the Wild Life Division, in February 1941, to amend Park Service regulations so as to allow commercial trolling for salmon in Glacier Bay according to a new rulemaking by the Fish and Wildlife Service. NPS policy toward commercial fishing in saltwater areas, Cahalane thought, was to allow it "when such fishing does not endanger sport fishing." [8] The special regulation for Glacier Bay was adopted March 26, 1941. A month later, Director Newton B. Drury acknowledged receipt of the FWS's new general regulations for Alaska fisheries and noted that "all waters of Glacier Bay National Monument navigable to small boats are open to commercial fishing." [9] This included the crab fishery that started in 1942. [10]

NPS officials occasionally expressed qualms about commercial fishing in the monument, particularly the taking of king crabs--"the big crabs are worth more as a spectacle for visitors as they hurry over the shallow bottom when you paddle through the coves late in the afternoons and at twilight," one official urged--but the predominant view was that it would continue indefinitely. Secretary of the Interior Udall assured a Juneau audience in 1965, "There is no reason why you can't have commercial fishing going on," and in various proposals for a park bill at that time special provisions were included to allow fishing. [11]

In 1978, the Department of the Interior commissioned an ad hoc task force of fisheries management and research specialists of the NPS and the FWS to review and evaluate the fisheries policies of the NPS. The task force's central finding, as set out in its report to the secretary on April 4, 1979, was that NPS fisheries policy should be revised in order to protect the "natural functioning of aquatic ecosystems." Specifically, the task force viewed commercial fishing as a non-conforming use of resources in national parks and monuments, and recommended phasing out commercial fishing throughout the national park system except where this activity had historical or cultural significance. [12] On February 25, 1980, the NPS published in the Federal Register a notice of availability of the task force's report and a request for comments.

A few months later, in the early summer of 1980, Superintendent Chapman brought this prospective change of NPS policy toward commercial fishing in Glacier Bay to the attention of local fishermen. The timing of this initiative was unfortunate, given the anxieties then surrounding the humpback whale situation and the polarization of views that the NPS was reacting to developments either too precipitously or too late. Lacking the skill of his predecessors in picking his battles, Chapman chose the occasion of an address to the Tlingit-Haida Sealaska Corporation to drop this bombshell. The corporation's vice president, Robert Loescher, pursued the matter with Chapman afterwards. Chapman's reply to Loescher was evasive:

The main point which has been surfacing in the recent past is not a desire to close out anything, but the realization that with the rapid increase in visitor use of the area there must be an application of policies and planning processes which did not have to be put into effect when use was very light. [13]

Loescher later claimed that he put the question to Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus at a signing ceremony for ANILCA in December 1980: would any national park areas in Alaska be closed to commercial fishing? The secretary replied, before a gathering of some three hundred people, that nothing would be closed. [14]

Alaska fishermen were not the only group that objected to a phase-out of commercial fishing; it was clear that the proposed system-wide policy change would be a complex and contentious one to implement. Moreover, during that winter of 1980-81 the incoming Reagan administration was making it known that it interpreted the election of 1980 as a mandate for opening national interest lands to more, not less, economic exploitation. NPS director Russell E. Dickenson decided that the problem required further study, this time by an in-Service task force which would aim for "the widest possible airing of views" by state fish and game commissions, commercial fisheries interests, and other concerned groups and individuals. [15]

If Dickenson's intent was to facilitate a more consensus-based approach to this issue, local developments in Glacier Bay hindered such a course. This was because the commercial fishing interests interpreted the temporary regulations for whale protection, which the NPS published in the Federal Register on December 29, 1980, and which included a ban on commercial fishing of four species of fish in Glacier Bay (notably shrimp) that were considered to be whale prey, as a shot across the bow in the forthcoming effort to close the bay to all forms of commercial fishing. Congressman Don Young inquired why there had been no economic analysis preceding the rulemaking and objected to the Park Service's unsubstantiated assertion in the Federal Register that trawling "is a fishing method that disrupts feed beds." [16] To this, Regional Director John Cook replied that the NPS had "deliberately tried to avoid addressing the commercial fishing issue at this time through the Whales and the Endangered Species Act." Only two shrimp fishermen would be directly affected by the regulation. The ban on trawling, Cook argued, would if anything work to the advantage of halibut and crab fishermen who used long lines and crab pots to catch these bottom-dwelling species. [17]

While the whale regulations caused some friction between the NPS and local fishermen, NPS efforts to prohibit commercial fishing in wilderness waters caused the most uproar. ANILCA placed four areas of Glacier Bay plus the upper end of Dundas Bay within the boundaries of the new Glacier Bay Wilderness Area. The commercial fishing interests contended that the allowances contained in ANILCA for motorized access and traditional uses in wilderness covered fishing vessels; the NPS held that the law's provisions applied only to recreational uses. In a controversial opinion issued on May 5, 1982, Interior Department Solicitor J. Roy Spradley, Jr., interpreted ANILCA to mean that pleasure boats could enter wilderness waters but fishing vessels could not. Spradley based this on the prohibition of non-recreational commercial uses of wilderness contained in the Wilderness Act of 1964. [18]

The intended closure of wilderness waters to commercial fishing boats soon embroiled the NPS in a controversy with the state of Alaska over the longstanding dispute concerning jurisdiction of the marine areas in the park. In 1982-83, solicitors for the Department of the Interior and the Alaska Attorney General's Office dueled with one another over this issue. Spradley's opinion of May 5, 1982, implied that the United States owned title to the submerged lands in the park and that the NPS had authority to regulate commercial fishing in the park's waters; an opinion issued by the state on October 18, 1982, held that ownership of the submerged lands had transferred to the state under the Alaska Statehood Act; then another Interior Department solicitor's opinion on November 29, 1982, refuted this claim; and still another opinion prepared by the state attorney's office on May 11, 1983, set out the state's "options." [19]

ANILCA required the NPS to generate general management plans (GMPs) for all units of the national park system in Alaska. Like the wilderness recommendations required by the Wilderness Act of 1964, the GMP would go through a public hearing and review process before being submitted to Congress. NPS officials welcomed this process as an effective means of staking out the agency's position on a range of management issues. As a part of this process, the NPS developed regulations that would close wilderness waters in Glacier Bay National Park to all forms of commercial fishing and prohibit trawling throughout Glacier Bay. The proposed rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on April 6, 1983, and presented with a draft of the GMP at a public hearing in Juneau two weeks later. [20]

Fishermen attending the meeting in Juneau expressed anger and dismay. In regard to commercial fishing in wilderness waters, the Park Service had a good legal argument backed by a solicitor's opinion, but it struck the fishermen as unjust. They interpreted the proposed rulemaking, like the temporary whale regulations of December 29, 1980, as a devious effort by the NPS to thin the amount of vessel traffic in the bay. They pointed out the irony that the regulations permitted pleasure craft to infiltrate the wilderness during the busiest months of the year, yet prevented fishing vessels from entering these areas in the dead of winter. They accepted neither that fishes were a park resource nor that commercial fishing clashed with the purposes of the Wilderness Act. As local residents, they thought the Park Service was being discriminatory to ban their vessels from wilderness waters when wealthy sport fishermen could go into those same areas aboard chartered cabin cruisers. [21]

NPS officials in the Washington office, meanwhile, quietly dumped the proposed regulation. The decision may have been influenced by Congressman Young, who had objected earlier to the ban on trawlers included in the temporary whale regulations and who now introduced a bill that would allow commercial fishing in wilderness waters in Glacier Bay National Park. "Young's action is part of a larger game plan for Alaska," a writer for National Parks commented. "People close to the problem say that `virtually every Alaska issue is a piece of trading stock,' part of a strategy for chipping away at the protections afforded by ANILCA." [22] Although Young's bill never went before the full Congress for a vote, it was an effective ploy. This was not the last time that Alaska's congressman and senators used the threat of legislation in order to change NPS policy. In any case, no explanation for the administration's decision to forego the proposed rulemaking was ever offered to the park staff. As the park's GMP finally emerged from this process, it stated that the NPS would allow commercial fishing in wilderness waters to continue pending the promulgation of regulations. As for trawling, the GMP blandly observed that there was "a potential for developing interests in trawling and other forms of bottom fishing." Conspicuously absent from the GMP was the statement contained in the proposed regulation that "trawling is a fishing method which disrupts feed beds and changes the contour of the bottom of the bay, thus causing serious resource damage to the park." [23]

During the winter of 1983-84, NPS officials negotiated with representatives of the state government, the park concessionaire, commercial fishermen, and environmentalists in devising a new agreement on wilderness waters. The chief elements of the plan were: 1) to phase out all motorized vessels in wilderness waters, and 2) to eliminate the Beardslee Islands, Hugh Miller Inlet, and the northern arms of Dundas Bay from the wilderness area while including Muir and Wachusett inlets. Alaska's congressional delegation indicated it would introduce a bill if all parties in the negotiations agreed to the plan. Friends of Glacier Bay played a lead role in bringing the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council on board; both groups' memberships comprised a significant number of fishermen whose ties to environmentalists had been forged in battles over timber, not fisheries, and who now threatened to bolt the negotiations. SEACC finally endorsed the plan, but Robert Giersdorf of Glacier Bay Lodge, Inc. dropped out of the process early in 1984. [24]

If these negotiations failed to produce a consensus and a special bill, they nevertheless formed the basis for the Park Service's wilderness recommendation, which ANILCA required the President to submit to Congress for each unit of the national park system in Alaska. The recommendation was included in a final draft of the GMP and sent to the regional office, which forwarded the document to the Washington office for final approval. As soon as the GMP was approved in September 1985, park planners turned to drafting an environmental impact statement on the wilderness recommendation. Due to inadequate funding support, this was not ready for public review until 1988. [25]

The wilderness review process defined the debate over commercial fishing in terms of which bays and inlets commercial fishing would be disallowed in. In considering various alternative configurations of wilderness and nonwilderness waters, commercial fishermen were concerned less with total acreages, which were relatively small compared to the rest of the park's marine area, than they were with the value of the different bays and inlets as fisheries. There was a lot of money at stake. The Beardslee Islands and Dundas Bay were good crabbing areas, and Hugh Miller Inlet was a choice area for catching halibut. In a sample year, an estimated $132,000 in Dungeness crab, $55,000 in halibut, and $35,000 in salmon came from wilderness waters. This represented more than a fourth of the total Dungeness crab harvest in the park, and smaller portions of the total halibut and salmon catches. [26] Moreover, many fishermen regarded the debate over fishing in wilderness waters as a test of their resolve not to be closed out of the park altogether.

Ironically, the close attention given to wilderness waters in Glacier Bay diverted attention away from the ongoing review of commercial fishing in all areas of the national park system (and hence all of Glacier Bay). After the joint NPS-FWS task force had made its report in March 1979, and NPS director Dickenson had ordered an in-Service follow-up study in 1980, the deliberation over commercial fishing was soon folded into a larger process of regulatory review that the NPS had undertaken in response to the Redwood National Park Act of 1978. That act amended the National Parks Act of 1916 in part as follows:

The authorization of activities shall be construed and the protection, management, and administration of [NPS areas] shall be conducted in light of the high public value and integrity of the National Park System and shall not be exercised in derogation of the values and purposes for which these various areas have been established, except as may have been or shall be directly and specifically provided by Congress. [27]

New system-wide regulations that the NPS promulgated on June 30, 1983, in response to the Redwood National Park Act, prohibited commercial fishing "except where specifically authorized by Federal statutory law." [28] NPS officials in Alaska subsequently maintained that they had failed to comment on this regulation because an earlier draft of the regulations had referred to commercial fishing in freshwater--not saltwater, too, as the regulation in its final form implied. Consequently the regulation went through the normal public response period without ever reaching a public forum in the one state where it most mattered. [29]

The park staff had first learned of this new regulation as it proceeded to draft permanent whale regulations in the summer of 1983. The NPS had no desire at this time to attempt to implement the new regulation in Glacier Bay; as Department solicitor Roy Spradley Jr., noted, "Extension of that prohibition to GBNP would be extremely controversial and could generate litigation." In Spradley's opinion, the regulation did not in fact apply to Glacier Bay. He pointed to the regulation's preamble which stated that the activity was not allowed "unless authorized by Federal statutory law or regulation." Spradley went on to interpret the temporary whale regulations for Glacier Bay of December 29, 1980 as just such an authorization. "Although those provisions do not expressly authorize commercial fishing," concluded Spradley, "they indicate that NPS sanctions that activity." [30] If this solicitor's opinion somewhat strained credulity, it was nevertheless exactly what the NPS needed to keep the humpback whale issue discrete from the fishery issue as it whisked the permanent whale regulations through the public review process in 1983-84. Spradley's opinion also formed the basis for proceeding with wilderness recommendations that assumed that commercial fishing would continue in non-wilderness waters inside the park.

In time, however, NPS officials grew more and more skeptical about the legality of commercial fishing in Glacier Bay under the Redwood National Park Act of 1978 and the Service-wide regulations of 1983 that addressed the act. To reverse course--to assert that the reasoning in the Spradley opinion was flawed, that the NPS had never authorized commercial fishing in Glacier Bay, and that the NPS was constrained by the Redwood National Park Act to phase it out--would incur definite political costs. It would contradict the park's GMP, which stated that a commercial fishery existed and would be allowed to continue in the park. And it would undermine the wilderness recommendations (now complete and awaiting an environmental impact statement) inasmuch as the value of each inlet to commercial fishing interests had weighed heavily in determining how the wilderness boundaries should be redrawn.

If Superintendent Tollefson had doubts about the park's position, he did not advertise them. He did emphasize--consistent with the GMP--that commercial fishing in wilderness waters continued to be an unresolved issue. [31] Chief Ranger David Spirtes thought that commercial fishing in the park was unauthorized and illegal, however. Spirtes brought the vexing 1983 regulation to Superintendent Marvin Jensen's attention a few months after Jensen's arrival. Jensen was incredulous when he read the regulation, thinking that the NPS policy to phase out commercial fishing in all areas where it was not authorized by law was clear on its face. [32] This view has since been supported by an informal memorandum prepared by Interior Department Solicitor Ruth Ann Story in August 1989. [33]

Toward a Prohibition of Commercial Fishing

What was behind the Park Service's change of position in the mid to late 1980s? A change of superintendents in the winter of 1987-88 gave this change clear definition, but other forces were at work too. There was a growing sense that the commercial fishery was out of control, that it had grown too big, that what had once added perhaps a touch of local color to the scene had become an eyesore. Although the whale regulations placed a limit of twenty-five vessels in Glacier Bay on any day between June 1 and August 31, entry limitations on fishing vessels had not been enforced. On opening day of the halibut season, it was not uncommon to see 100 fishing vessels streaming into the bay. Each vessel trailed fishing lines, marking buoys, and occasional releases of garbage or fish carcasses behind it. [34] The burble of a fishing boat's engine might be the only noise to break the stillness in an inlet where backcountry users might be seeking solitude.

There was also the clear mandate to manage the park for its scientific values, strengthened further by the area's designation in 1986 as a Biosphere Reserve. The effects of commercial fishing on the marine ecology of Glacier Bay were inadequately documented. Neither the ADF&G nor the NPS had demonstrated that existing harvest pressure was causing no long-term alterations to natural conditions in the park. Indeed, as far back as 1979 the NPS-FWS task force had presumed just the opposite--that this consumptive use of natural resources contradicted the NPS's mission to preserve natural conditions. In addition, park managers expressed concern about the effects of so many motorized vessels around sensitive habitat areas such as seal pupping grounds and sea bird nesting colonies. [35]

Perhaps the most important reason--although hardest to document--is that the Reagan administration's systematic effort to emasculate ANILCA's environmental protections through underfunding left the NPS with insufficient means, manpower, and political will to deal effectively with more than one contentious issue at a time in Glacier Bay. [36] Moreover, with Alaska's congressional delegation openly hostile to the NPS, park superintendents and other NPS officials who transferred to the Alaska region quickly learned that they faced closer congressional scrutiny there than in any other region of the nation. [37] With so much effort and political capital expended on humpback whale protection, NPS officials had to approach the commercial fishing issue gingerly. They could not afford to antagonize the cruise ship industry and the fishermen's lobby both at once. Superintendent Chapman failed to adapt to these circumstances and embroiled himself in one controversy after another until he was finally ousted. Superintendent Tollefson was more adept at marshaling his resources to attain limited goals, but in doing so he left the commercial fishing issue unaddressed. In 1988, when Superintendent Jensen weighed the Park Service's options on this issue and finally decided upon a reversal of Tollefson's policy, he had that latitude thanks in part to the legacy of Tollefson's smooth touch with the various political entities that impinged on park administration.

Marvin Jensen, a native Utahan, began his career in resource management with the BLM, overseeing land use permits on the Colorado Plateau for stockraising, archeological digs, western movie sets, and, increasingly, recreational uses. Through his specialization in whitewater river trip management in the early 1970s, Jensen eventually saw his way into the Park Service with an assignment in Grand Canyon National Park, managing whitewater rafting on the Colorado River. From 1981 to 1987 he served as management assistant at Sequoia National Park, then applied for the superintendent position at three Alaska parks and was appointed to Kenai Fjords. When Michael Tollefson moved to the regional office in Seattle three months later, Regional Director Boyd Evison tapped Jensen for the job at Glacier Bay.

Jensen wrestled with the commercial fishing issue during the first half of 1988, while the NPS completed the wilderness recommendation EIS and presented it for a public hearing in July. After perusing the many responses that came in afterward--several expressing frustration and bafflement--Jensen carefully articulated a new direction on this issue in a letter to the regional director:

The proposals forwarded to Congress must consider the long term of wilderness and therefore be carefully developed. One of the primary reasons that the existing wilderness recommendation proposes deletions is the presence of commercial fishing in the Bay in designated wilderness waters and in waters that are proposed for such designation. As you are acutely aware and as we have discussed, commercial fishing is prohibited in all of the waters of the Park even though the NPS has to date chosen to not enforce the prohibition. I believe that we must operate on the premise that the long term direction of this agency will be to ultimately eliminate commercial fishing, and therefore, the recommendations we make for wilderness should not be compromised by commercial fishing. In the short term, I believe we should find a reasonable way to allow those who are currently commercially fishing the waters of Glacier Bay be allowed to continue, but for only for a definite specified period of time and that no new fishing or fishermen should be allowed to start. [38]

In this statement, Jensen laid out three guiding principles for his subsequent management of the commercial fishing issue: 1) forthright acknowledgement that the existing policy contained unacceptable legal inconsistencies, 2) a search for a comprehensive solution--the eventual elimination of commercial fishing from the park, and 3) a preference for a phased termination.

Regarding the wilderness recommendations, Jensen urged no less than nine modifications to the favored alternative. This was tantamount to a rejection of all four alternatives including the "no action" alternative and an admission that the process had been disrupted by the Park Service's change of position on commercial fishing. While it was regrettable from the NPS point of view that this would likely delay the wilderness designation, Jensen and his superiors all found this preferable to making a flawed recommendation. Jensen's comments were reproduced almost verbatim in the wilderness recommendations for Glacier Bay that Director William Penn Mott, Jr. submitted to the assistant secretary of fish and wildlife and parks on December 20, 1988. [39] Four years later, these wilderness recommendations had not yet been acted upon.

With the muddled wilderness recommendation now behind him, Jensen thought it was time to "get into the commercial fishing issue on a parkwide basis." Initially, Jensen had in mind at least three separate initiatives--to terminate commercial fishing in wilderness waters as soon as possible, to phase it out slowly in the non-wilderness portion of Glacier Bay so as to lessen the economic hardship for local fishermen, and to consider still another management approach for the three-mile-wide strip of ocean off the outer coast and those portions of Cross Sound and Icy Strait that were within the park boundaries. [40]

By mid-1989, however, Jensen was thinking in terms of eliminating commercial fishing from all park waters. Two factors appear to have influenced him. First, he received numerous indications during the first half of 1989 that the NPS would face endless political difficulties if it tried to develop and implement a fine-grained management approach to the various kinds, localities, and levels of harvesting in the park. The Natives of Hoonah actively began to pursue subsistence fishing rights in the park, an important development that will be discussed at length in the next chapter. Local non-Native fishermen--residents of Gustavus, Hoonah, Elfin Cove, and Pelican for the most part--demonstrated considerable savvy in presenting their use of Glacier Bay as traditional and environmentally benign. [41] Longtime Gustavus resident Gregory P. Streveler, who returned to the Glacier Bay staff for one year in 1989, laid out his thoughts for the superintendent on "small-scale" and "local/traditional" commercial fishing uses that could be maintained far enough below the maximum sustainable yield as to have no appreciable effect on the ecosystem. Streveler referred to the "moral right that some groups have to consideration in management of this place." He presented a hierarchy of species and hydrographic characteristics that could be taken into account in developing more or less self-imposed limits on the fishery. [42] The problem with this approach for management was that if any regulations could be devised (it was not clear whether the NPS or the ADF&G would be responsible for this) they would be so riddled with exceptions, qualifications, and assumptions as to invite confusion, hassles, abuses, and litigation.

The second factor that seems to have influenced the superintendent's thinking was his assessment of Glacier Bay National Park's stature as "potentially...the premier marine sanctuary and natural laboratory in the nation, where fisheries managers could find relatively undisturbed conditions for comparison with disturbed ecosystems." An executive summary on the commercial fishing issue dated July 12, 1989, stated, "Glacier Bay National Park is world renowned for its wilderness character and the opportunity for scientific study of ecosystem processes....[The outer coast] areas are as important as Glacier Bay for marine sanctuary, scientific investigation, and a wilderness setting." [43] Thus Jensen rejected the idea of treating the park waters located outside Glacier Bay any differently from the bay itself.

Early in 1990, a park employee alerted Gustavus and Hoonah residents to the Park Service's changing position toward commercial fishing in the park, and these citizens contacted the governor's Citizens Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA) with a request to investigate what the NPS was planning to do. CACFA officials asked superintendent Jensen to address the subject at one of their regular meetings. In March, CACFA co-sponsored meetings with the NPS where the NPS would explain the situation and answer questions for citizens of Juneau, Gustavus, Hoonah, Pelican, and Yakutat. At these meetings, Jensen and regional director Evison explained the Park Service's plan to issue regulations that would commit the park to a research program on the environmental effects of commercial fishing in park waters before the NPS would prohibit commercial fishing in the park. [44]

The NPS made public a proposed ruling on commercial fishing in Glacier Bay National Park on July 1, 1990. The regulation would prohibit commercial fishing in designated wilderness waters. It would allow commercial fishing in the non-wilderness waters of the park until December 31, 1997. The purpose of this seven-year interim was to allow commercial fishermen adequate time "to amortize their equipment and/or adjust their operations to areas outside of park boundaries" and, further, to give NPS scientists time to study the effects of commercial fishing on the ecosystem. "In the event that data from such studies assuredly indicate that certain levels and/or types of commercial fish can compatibly coexist with conserving park resources in an unimpaired state," the announcement in the Federal Register read, "then the NPS may consider regulatory adjustments to allow for closely monitored commercial fisheries to continue at prescribed levels beyond the presently proposed interim allowance period." This ruling was promulgated on May 1, 1991. [45] Recent developments in this unfolding situation are discussed in the conclusion.

The Dry Bay Fishery

One hundred air miles northwest of Gustavus and bordering the Tongass National Forest lies the 55,000-acre Glacier Bay National Preserve, established by ANILCA in 1980. Consisting mostly of forested plain and coastal beach, with the Deception Hills rising on its southern and eastern edges where it borders the national park, the preserve was included in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve principally to allow the Park Service jurisdiction over the lower section of the Alsek River, whose meandering course from Alsek Lake to the Dry Bay estuary on the Gulf of Alaska forms the boundary between the preserve and Tongass National Forest. Congress decided to designate the area a preserve in order to allow a continuation of sport hunting there. In addition, ANILCA authorized the continuation of commercial fishing in the area. These activities were deemed vital to the economic well-being of Yakutat, a predominantly Native village located on the Gulf of Alaska, as well as to the several dozen white fishermen who lived in the area three to four months each summer.

Commercial fishing in the preserve was concentrated on the East River, with a smaller amount on the Dry Bay estuary and on the Alsek River. Most fishermen used set nets, which they would anchor to the river bank alongside a back eddy where the swirling current served the dual purpose of luring salmon and holding the net part way out in the channel. When a number of salmon were hooked in the net by their gills, the fishermen came along in their boats to pick them off one by one. There was a local fish buyer and processing plant at Dry Bay. Fishermen commonly transported the day's catch to the plant in a trailer hitched to an all-terrain vehicle, driving over some of the thirty to forty miles of dirt tracks in the preserve. [46]

Native and white fishermen formed two separate communities in the preserve. The Natives commuted by boat or charter plane from their homes in Yakutat, generally leaving their families in the village to minimize travel costs and going to the Dry Bay area for the few days of fishing per week allowed by state fishing regulations. The whites came mostly from Seattle and lived at Dry Bay for three or four months each summer, often accompanied by their families. The Native community mostly lived in tents, while the whites lived either in permanent cabins or portable, plywood shelters. The white fishermen tended to bring more supplies and equipment and require more living space since they were farther from home. [47]

After passage of ANILCA, the state of Alaska maintained control over the fishery by issuing a limited number of commercial fishing permits and establishing seasons and days of the week when gillnets could be set, while the Park Service assumed what had formerly been the Forest Service's responsibility to regulate land use in the preserve by issuing permits for cabins and campsites. In 1981-82, the Park Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's subsistence division made a joint study of all the resource uses in the area, including commercial fishing, subsistence fishing, hunting, gathering, and sport hunting, all of which would continue under ANILCA. For its part, the Park Service contracted with New York anthropologist George Gmelch, who spent the summer of 1981 living among the residents of Dry Bay. [48]

Even as superintendent John Chapman was getting this project under way, the commercial fishery was rapidly expanding, contrary to the purposes of ANILCA. On a four-day inspection of the preserve in 1981, Chapman ascertained that at least one cabin had been built during the past year, while the number of temporary camps had mushroomed from approximately twenty to sixty since Congress had designated the preserve. ANILCA's Section 205 required the secretary of the interior not to interfere with access or accommodations connected with authorized commercial fisheries such as the one at Dry Bay, except in the case of "significant expansion." Chapman determined that the best way to address what constituted "significant expansion" was through the general management plan and public hearing process. [49] Consequently, the Park Service established that any growth beyond twenty-five percent of 1979 levels was "significant" and therefore disallowed. Its index for land use would be the number of "fish camps" (cabins and outbuildings) permitted, these being the most visible "footprint" upon the land. [50]

Competition intensified for the limited number of fish camp permits. After holding public meetings in Yakutat and at Dry Bay to determine the most equitable way to handle the competition, especially between Natives and whites, the Park Service held lotteries in 1985 and 1986 for three special-use permits to construct new fish camps. This completed the allowable expansion under the GMP. [51>]

NPS employee speaks with an elderly, nearly blind Hoonah fisherman
An NPS employee speaks with an elderly, nearly blind Hoonah fisherman in front of the recently-opened Glacier Bay Lodge in this July 1966 photo. (Robert Howe Collection, photo GB 263.)

beach-anchored set net at Dry Bay
Commercial fishing has long been a controversial aspect of Glacier Bay management. This photo, taken in June 1985, shows a beach-anchored set net at Dry Bay. (Ted Handwerk photo, GLBA Collection, photo X-468.)

Fish processing operation at Dry Bay
Fish processing operation at Dry Bay, July 1979. (Don Chase photo, GLBA Collection, photo X-474.)

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Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000