Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My how the times are changing

  For all intents and purposes, the 2012 fishing season is pretty much over for most of the troll fleet. There will still be a few hard noses who will go out to catch some winter kings after the season opens in October, but most of them are located where there is more access to the ocean. Here in Hoonah  the stalls are filled with the boats that have been out fishing all summer. The last of the tour ships has come and gone and the charter operators are secure in their slips. Some of the guys are working furiously to build frames over their boats to support the tarps that will keep the snow off. There are last minute oil changes and leaders that need coiled up. Spoons and flashers are stowed until next spring and there are handshakes and farewell greetings as different ones go to places unknown to spend the winter. Hopefully someplace warmer than Alaska. I keep thinking that some day I'll join the exodus and spend my winters where I don't have to shovel snow and I can actually drive to a town that has supermarkets and doctors.
   So much has changed here in the past ten years or so. While we still have a large commercial fishing fleet, the tour industry is becoming more and more of a burden to deal with. With ships dislodging eight hundred or more people at a time and the explosion of sport charter and whale watch/ adventure type boats, it's starting to feel less and less like a wild and wonderful place and more like Disneyland. There are boats that discharge kayakers at places like Point Adolphus and Pinta Cove where they set up tents against the mountainside, and while they may enjoy their excursion, others, who hope to see the wilderness devoid of all the trappings of modern life have a less than stellar experience. The very thing that many people come to see is ruined by the fact that so many tour companies are operating out of the same limited places. Last month I was fishing out at Point Dundas and had to go into Inian Cove to sell my fish to the packer, the Narada. When I came into the cove, I noticed a boat tied to a float who would normally be fishing out in Cross Sound. Off to the side was what I at first thought was a small out building, but I saw later it was an enormous white sign with red lettering that read, Tourism Rapes Alaska. Obviously the person who wrote this has some very strong feelings about the way the tourist industry comes in and seems to take over an area. This particular fellow has lived a pretty isolated life, self sufficient, growing his own vegetables, hunting and fishing and living off the land, much like many Alaskans. Obviously he's angry that even his isolated corner of the world has been invaded by the tour companies who bring hoards of strangers into his home.While his view may be extreme, it does express what  a number of us are feeling. For many of us who make Alaska our home, we feel helpless to fight against the onlslaught of big money forcing changes upon us that benefit only a few at the expense of many. Like eating too much dessert or drinking too  much wine, too many tour companies can leave everyone feeling ill. I don't know what the answer is. It would be nice if the tour companies would self regulate to keep from getting so big and intrusive that no one has a pleasant experience, but when it comes to money, it seems that more is always better, so I don't expect things to improve any time soon.


  1. Guess the only thing to say about the tourists is its a good thing it only happens for a short while in the summer. Do you think that if you didn't live in AK you would want to take a trip to AK to see all of it just like a tourist? I probably would.

  2. HI Camille- good point. I probably would too if I didn't know any better. I'm not against tourism; without it I would sell very many books, that's for sure. And, I'm happy that people get to see what we take for granted here. The problem is, that like anywhere, it starts off small and someone gets the great idea that they could make big bucks off of the tourists if they do this or that and soon the place is a madhouse. Most of the people who make the money don't live here, so they aren't impacted directly by the decisions they make. It's the locals who are left to with all the crap. I've lived here long enough to see the impact of tourism and how it's changed my life and those around here. The government puts a limit on the number of cruise ships that can enter Glacier Bay because of the impact that they have on the area. It would be nice to have a similar limit to the number of tourist companies that can set up here. As I said, when you get too many boats and people in one area the quality of the experience is diminished. Thanks for commenting!