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Controversy follows Upper Cook Inlet Task Force effort

Posted: March 7, 2013 - 8:51pm

At a meeting involving the Alaska Peninsula, the Board of Fisheries also talked about the work done by the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force this year.

The task force was created last fall to talk about possible changes to the late-run king salmon management plan to provide fishing opportunity in times of low king abundance, such as the situation last summer.

Board member Tom Kluberton said the task wound up with limited time at the final meeting to draft its recommendations, and used a bare-bones proposal from one member as a framework to express the varying range of ideas.

The full task force agreed on a July 21 trigger point, at which time action would be taken if the late-run king salmon escapement was predicted to fall below 15,000 fish. That was a consensus point, Kluberton said.

“From there, we tended to have different opinions,” Kluberton said. “We didn’t really view this as a voting scenario ... What we chose as our approach was to bring forward the range of opinion.”

Kluberton noted that he and fellow board member Vince Webster, who co-chaired the task force, did not express final agreement or disagreement on the ideas.

The record copy, or RC, submitted on behalf of the task force captures different opinions about what happens after July 21, Kluberton said. A group was in favor of changing from the sustainable escapement goal, or SEG, to an optimum escapement goal, or OEG, with a range of 13,000 to 30,000. That could be a means of providing for fishing time while the run had an opportunity to come in.

The challenge, Kluberton said, was to provide more fishing opportunity for all gear types in the event of a late run.

Once the run comes in, the task force discussed restrictions for all gear types — in-river sport fishermen, East Side setnetters, as well as in the personal use fishery and outside marine rec fishery.

The management step-downs included no bait in the sport fishery and reducing the setnet schedule, and other paired restrictions. Kluberton said the setnetters were not in favor of gear restrictions, but were willing to give up time periods.

Now the issue will be up to the board to decide at the March statewide board meeting beginning March 19 in Anchorage.

“What we informed the task force is whatever is taken forward, the decision truly belongs to this board,” Kluberton said.

There will likely be public testimony and RCs submitted with various options, Kluberton said.

Other board members were not as happy about the outcome, or the way it was presented.

Johnstone said the public notice regarding the task force’s work was possibly misleading. The task force is listed as the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force of the Board of Fisheries, and said it conducted its final meeting in February.

“The board didn’t conduct any meeting, it was the task force,” Johnstone said.

He also disagreed with a line in the documentation that said the board forwarded along the suggestions for consideration.

“That kind of a notice that goes out to the public might suggest to the public that the board is endorsing this,” Johnstone said. “The board is endorsing nothing. The task force consists of users.”

He also disagreed with calling the task force’s work “recommendations.”

“I view it as ideas and input from the users on these ideas,” Johnstone said. “... I don’t look at this as a final recommendation.”

Kluberton said that there had been semantic mistakes made, and he had received some nasty letters, but that he hoped it could be cleaned up and gotten out there for the public to consider. He also acknowledged the hard work by staff that provided information as needed.

Johnstone said he didn’t mean to criticize the work Webster and Kluberton did.

“I really applaud their efforts,” Johnstone said.

Member Orville Huntington also thanked them, but said he had concerns about how the process went and how it was portrayed. Huntington didn’t want the task force to be seen as speaking for the board.

”I don’t know what was said, I don’t know what went on there all together. I got a lot of complaints,” he said.

Huntington also said that he had not wanted any recommendations, but just a report of what happened at the meeting. Recommendations could come from the users, he said.

Kluberton noted that the all the events of the meeting were available online, so anyone could find out what had happened at the meeting.

“You’ll find a library of information that was requested by the task force,” he said. “... It’s all out there, it’s been out there for many months.”

Webster agreed, and said he was going to address everyone’s concerns more bluntly.

“There’s a website that shows every single thing that went on at that meeting,” Webster said. “For anyone to suggest that we directed this task force in any way is either blatantly lying or they wasn’t at the meeting. We didn’t suggest anything. They all came from the task force. This before us is 100 percent from the task force members themselves and that’s what they agreed upon: the language exactly the way it’s in this.”

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@alaskajournal.com.

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Unglued
228
Points
Unglued 03/09/13 - 11:26 am
0
1
Push has come to shove

Cook Inlet is a mixed-stock fishery that's pushed to the max, and now something happening in the ocean has shoved it over the edge of sustainability. Shutting it all down, as was done last year, is the only sensible course. To do anything else will lead only to more and longer closures in future years. Any move to try to save livelihoods by increasing fishing effort would be irresponsible. Fish board members and state fishery managers know this. The fish have to come first.

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 03/09/13 - 12:36 pm
0
1
Stop being emotional!

This discussion is not one of sustainability, it is a discussion over yields and yield tradeoffs. There isn't a shred of scientific data suggesting that Kenai LR King returns are unsustainable. You are speaking on emotion, not science.

Thank you Mr. Webster and Mr. Kluberton for taking the time to come to Kenai and participate in a task force made up of users most dependant on this resource (for the most part - there was one non-resident paid interest group consultant on the board). I can only hope that even though the discussion and their results were different than what some would have hoped or expected, all of the BOF members will respect the sentiment that was expressed by our community during this public process. I also hope that they take the time to look at the very revealing data that ADFG produced for this task force. It definately changes any reasonable person's vew on the status of our LRK's and the fisheries involved.

Perhaps someday we could have an actual BOF meeting here. One would think in a fishery as contentious as ours, BOF members would be eager to hear from the Alaskan families most closely tied to the resource rather than just the interest group representatives who have the time and money to travel to Anchorage so they can participate and politic at a week-long meeting.

thewhop2000
30
Points
thewhop2000 03/09/13 - 01:03 pm
2
0
After the recent outbursts

After the recent outbursts during down time on the upper cook inlet task force, I don't blame the board not wanting to hold a local hearing. Certain members were accosted just by being related to active members of the community, seeking input to the fishery.
When the Kenai city mayor testifies in front of the BOF, praising the commercial fishery and not mentioning sports fishing or dipnetting... it is most telling who side he feels his bread is buttered on. Pander to the $$$ is what I see.

Roger, who has the $$$$ to chase after the BOF? Why Sports fishermen and Comfishers both, don't kid yourself that it is only KRSA asking for a share. I think the drifters association spends more than anybody else to pay the way for access. Just my own thoughts though, give me some facts, not opinions.

Unglued
228
Points
Unglued 03/09/13 - 04:36 pm
2
0
Sustainability

The sustainability to which I was referring, Roger104, is that of the fishery, not the fish. I question the ability of Cook Inlet to year after year sustain fishing for Kenai River sockeye salmon with gill nets at the expense of all other species and runs. It can't be allowed to continue "as is." In 2012, it wasn't allowed to continue. Fishery managers did the right thing.

Some commercial users are simply going to have to find another way to make a living. This eventuality has been on the horizon for years, now it's here.

As for the board coming to the Kenai-Soldotna area again, I don't see it happening. There is far too much contention and too much at stake. Regarding the expense of going to Anchorage for meetings, that has never prevented a large number of commercial fishermen from attending in the past.

thewhop2000
30
Points
thewhop2000 03/09/13 - 07:04 pm
1
0
What he said!!!!!!!

What he said!!!!!!!

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/10/13 - 11:16 am
0
1
No controversy...

From my perspective there was/is zero controversy with regards to Kluberton and Webster. They did exactly what they were supposed to do as co-chairs and did it well. If anyone read the mission statement and payed attention, they should have been able to figure out what this task force was all about. Kudos to Kluberton and Webster for putting in the time and effort that they did and how they did it.

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 03/15/13 - 07:49 am
1
1
Sustainability

Unglued - funny that you peg the oldest Cook Inlet fishery with the longest record of sustainability and the most stringent limits on participation and harvest opportunity as unsustainable. The number of commercial users in the inlet has remained static for many years.

In contrast, the inriver fisheries in UCI rivers have been permitted to grow without any limits whatsoever on total participation or harvest, despite the obvious impacts on both the fish runs and the habitat.

As for the BOF meeting on the Peninsula - the overwhelming tone of the Task Force was both productive and informative. I think that all of those present can say that they learned something in the process. It would not have been a fisheries meeting if it didn't get a little heated at times. Anyone trying to say that these meetings were not civilized or respectful is either lying or did not attend.

The Whop, the City Mayor is a she. The Borough Mayor is a he. And they both recognize the value of having a diverse fishery made up of all user groups, as do most people that live in my community - they all help butter our bread. Our community has depended on this resource for generations. While I have no doubt that many interest groups participate in the BOF process wherever it's held, I have doubts that any of them represent what is best for my family and my community.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/15/13 - 07:45 pm
1
0
selective harvest...

Unglued is correct, continued harvest of kings in the set net sockeye fishery is something that needs to be curtailed. Instead of just arguing that there is no king problem and lowering escapement goals, the set net fishery should be, as a whole, coming up with ways to reduce their impact on the late run kings. Although there was a small amount of conceding some net time, there were no other viable methods of harvest reduction offered by the set net fishery. Gill nets, particularly set gill nets are on their way out--illustrated by the removal of no-indian gill nets on the Columbia River recently. The ability to selectively harvest is something that has never been a problem on sport fisheries because of gear and species regulations that stop harvest of the intended species of the regulatory measure. I would challenge the set net participants to come up with some creative methods for king harvest reduction that come even a bit closer to more of a selective harvest fishery.

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 03/15/13 - 09:30 pm
0
1
DIVERSITY...

The average ESSN exploitation rate of Kenai LR King salmon is 13%, but still you feel that it needs to be curtailed. Curtailed to what, exactly? 0%? Do you think we would have a healthier resource, ecosystem, or economy if this were to happen? I would be interested to know how - especially since there is NO scientific data that suggests that this stock has been overexploited.

You are right, selective harvest is not a problem for the sport fishery. They specifically target and selectively harvest the larger, older kings. Since ESSN fish sockeye gear and it is to small to effectively harvest large kings, ESSN's harvest primarily smaller Kings, with the average weight of their Kings being around 20#. In fact, 40% of their King harvest is Jacks! When you combine the opposing selective harvest of the two groups, you get fairly even harvest across the age range of fish - If their harvest was equal, however the inriver sport fishery catches nearly twice as many kings as the ESSN fishery.

Just one of many reasons that a diverse fishery is a positive thing.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/16/13 - 08:17 am
0
1
Low abundance...

This entire task force was about making moves to help the late run kings in times of low abundance. So to answer your question, yes, in times of low abundance the ESSN exploitation rate should be curtailed--if not to 0%, it should be as close to that as can be gotten. I am part of the community and fully understand the impact of not having nets in the water for sockeye. To re-state, in times of low abundance ESSN, along with all the other participants must share in the conservation effort on kings. The ESSN argument during the process has been disingenuous when it comes to that. The ESSN and in-river fishery historically have taken a total of 80+% of the entire late run kings harvested. Of that total, the ESSN accounts for 30+% of the harvest. As we have both stated, the river fishery can be managed to create a limited and/or selective harvest. Up to now, we have heard nothing from the ESSN group on how they would/could reduce their impact besides less fishing time. If that is the only answer then, so be it. But I have a strong suspicion all the cards are not on the table.

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 03/16/13 - 11:33 am
0
1
Harvestable Surplus

The ESSN fishery is a 100+ year old fishery. It has undergone many restrictions and changes over time in the interest of reducing King catch, such as mesh size restrictions and time and area restrictions. The best method of reducing ESSN King catch is to fish them when sockeye are in abundance. All of the other methods recently mentioned are unproven theories. There is nothing disingenuous about not wanting to stake one's business future on unproven theories that are unnecessary.

Perhaps if our late run Kings were a conservation concern, and there was no harvestable surplus, the discussion may need to change. It is important to remember that we nearly EXCEEDED our LRK escapement goal last season, and finding a 0% exploitation for any user group was completely unnecessary. Kenai river late runs Kings are NOT a conservation concern, by definition. In fact, all user groups could have fished a normal season and harvested at traditional levels in 2012 and we still would have achieved the newly recommended goal of 15,000-30,000.

Another important fact to remember is that this mantra of 'conservation concern' and finding 'alternate methods of harvest' is coming from an organization who has been determined to eliminate the ESSN fishery for decades. It is their founding member's dream. Don't believe all the lies and misinformation that they spread - they are harmful to our resource and our community.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/16/13 - 06:11 pm
0
0
Broken record...

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will once again say that this whole thing is about low abundance of lrk's. If the lowered recommended goal is adopted then, if there truly is no king problem, we are all good to go. My main point has always been that the ESSN is the second largest harvester--or as you like to put it--exploiter of the late run kings. Simply stated, I would just love to see some sort of plan, with concrete methods of reducing havest in the event numbers drop below the goal, whatever they may be. At this point, we have seen nothing of that nature from the ESSN participants. I am done beating a dead horse...

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 03/16/13 - 08:02 pm
0
0
Time

I'm sure the setnetters feel like they are beating a dead horse as well. A concrete method for reducing king harvest.... Fish on sockeye abundance, and in the event that there is a real King problem, then close the fishery. This has worked for the last century through numerous cycles of low King abundance. ESSN's feel that it is still the most effective method, and it is what they said at the task force. Unfortunately, it is not what KRSA wants to hear, so the conversation continues. Cut the nets in half, cut the number of nets fished, cut the areas fished. Cut, cut, cut.... Hard to believe they're calling for fish traps again... Can you say project US?

kenai123
1319
Points
kenai123 03/17/13 - 08:21 pm
1
0
Unglued, "SOMETHING is happening in the ocean".

Cook Inlet's fisheries have been pushed to the max. but that is not what has finished off our king salmon. You can shut EVERYONE down in Cook Inlet but that won't fix the fisheries mess our fisheries managers have created. You are correct in sensing that "SOMETHING is happening in the ocean". That SOMETHING is systematic commercial fisheries abuse of our ocean. That commercial abuse has reached into what king salmon need to feed on. We have a STATEWIDE king salmon problem, all river, all streams, EVERYWHERE. If you are really interested in where all our king salmon have gone (along with our Beluga Whales), you are going to have to do some actual research. Please do not listen to the King Salmon Task Force People, they are primarily motivated by $$$, try doing some research yourself instead of just listening to the many people attempting to convince you that the reasons for our missing king salmon and belugas are mysteriously lurking out there "somewhere" but can't be precisely located? The reasons for this missing marine life is simpler than most would believe. Juvenal king salmon exclusively feed on crab larvae until they are finally able to begin feeding on larger prey like herring or capelin (small fish). Unfortunately sockeye salmon and pollock are consuming most of these crab larvae, thus many of our juvenal kings are starving to death. Our Beluga Whales are "coincidentally" in the same boat as they search to feed on sockeye salmon which have been commercially gill netted and sold to the highest bidder. If you would like to read the details they are located at http://www.voy.com/177140/152.html?z=1

kenai123
1319
Points
kenai123 03/17/13 - 08:41 pm
1
0
Kapco, low king abundance?

You are wrong, this whole thing is not about "low king abundance", it is about commercial fisheries over-harvest in our ocean. If you are really interested in where all our king salmon have gone, you are going to have to do some reading. Instead of just stamping "low abundance" on this king problem, do some research. The reasons for this missing kings is because juvenal king salmon exclusively feed on crab larvae, until they are able to begin feeding on larger prey. Sockeye salmon and pollock are consuming most of these crab larvae thus many of our juvenal kings are starving to death. If you would like to read the details they are located at http://www.voy.com/177140/152.html?z=1

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/18/13 - 06:52 am
0
0
I am aware...

I said the entire task force was about determining what to do from a regulatory stand point if low abundance is determined. I have read plenty on the problems in the ocean and will definitely take a look at your link you provided. Commercial over harvest and by catch are, without doubt, the biggest problem the kings (and other salmon--think coho) face. So, keep in mind, my low abundance reference is in regards to what this particular task force was about.

kenai123
1319
Points
kenai123 03/18/13 - 11:32 am
1
0
Kapco, low king abundance? More like juvenal kings starving.

The King Salmon Task Force was about commercial set netters putting a bandage on cancer. Seeing that they CANNOT reach the king salmon escapement goal into the Kenai River, because commercial set netters are sending most of our kings to the cannery, they reacted by stating that they can solve the problem by lowing the king escapement goal. Really brilliant, don't they know that is how the west coast lost all their salmon? Why make an escapement goal if when you cannot reach it, you just lower the goal? That is not a solution. It is just another glorified commercial fishing statement that kings don't matter and another reason we are where we are at currently. Commercial set netters have been telling us that kings are meaningless for decades and now they have been closed down for saying it. So what do they say next? They say the same thing, kings are meaningless, reduce the king escapement goal into the Kenai River, so we can keep the set gillnets fishing when we CANNOT reach our minimum king escapement goal.The problem in Cook Inlet is the fact that these gill netters believe in a fisheries priority for only one fish, thereby destroying EVERYTHING else trying to live around that chosen fish.
dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Priority fisheries management is throwing our marine eco system out of wack, resulting in imbalance within prey and predator. This imbalance has resulted
in 99% of the crab larvae which our juvenal kings need to survive, being wiped out and them starving to death.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/18/13 - 01:20 pm
0
0
I don't disagree...

Kenai123, I can't say I disagree with anything you said.

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