Board to tackle thorny Cook Inlet issues

What to do when the Kenai River late-run king salmon may not meet escapement is up for discussion in Anchorage, in hopes that users and managers can find a solution before the start of the 2013 fishery.

 

The Board of Fisheries will take up the Cook Inlet issue at its statewide finfish meeting March 19 to 24, with discussion on the late-run management plan scheduled to come up March 20.

A task force comprised of fisheries users, and co-chaired by board members Vince Webster and Tom Kluberton, has made several recommendations that will be considered during discussion of a placeholder proposal to address the management plan.

The task force did not come to consensus on most issues, but did agree to recommend a July 21 trigger date for management measures and to manage the East Side setnet fishery by emergency order for harvesting sockeye salmon when there is a possible shortfall of kings.

The task force also discussed, but did not agree on, an optimal escapement goal of 13,000 to 30,000 fish, and various paired restrictions for in-river and ocean users. Those include restricting to no bait, a cap on fishing time for setnetters, going to catch-and-release at a certain point for sport fishermen, and restrictions for the marine sport fishery.

The board could adopt the management measures discussed by the task force, come up with its own ideas, or wait until the Cook Inlet board meeting in 2014 to take any action.

Kenai River king management is just one of 29 proposals up for the board’s consideration at the statewide meeting.

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association submitted another, which will be considered as part of a batch of statewide proposals.

The Kenai River proposal would have fisheries managers turn first to its management plan and exhaust those tools before looking for other ways to manage a fishery, but would still have emergency order authority to fall back on to ensure that various management goals are met, particularly in mixed-stock fisheries.

That proposal developed out of what is already in regulation for Cook Inlet, but not other parts of the state, according to the KRSA proposal.

Another statewide proposal would mandate that chinook salmon are managed as a priority.

Two proposals address allocation issues. One would assert that no user group can receive 100 percent of the rights to harvest fish in a certain area, while another would create a weighted system, with each user group receiving certain points, and a decision made based on that point system. Alaskans would benefit from that because there would be more clarity in how allocation decisions are made.

Another proposal intended to aid in the public’s understanding of fisheries management would create a dictionary of management terminology.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has also asked for some management clarity in a proposal to amend the closed waters associated with salmon streams. Currently, some commercial fishing violations are based on incorrect interpretations of closed waters, and the proposal would address that.

The Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association has submitted a proposal that, if the board adopts, would require sustained escapement threshold for all stocks that are listed as a yield or management concern. That would better enable managers to determine if a stock was a conservation concern, according to the proposal.

Later in the meeting, the board will tackle certain sport fishing practices and terminology.

Among the changes up for consideration would authorize the department to restrict sport proxy fishing by emergency order, prohibit high grading, allow an increased bag and possession limit for the spiny dogfish shark, allow disabled or handicapped fishermen to use footgear with felt soles, ban the use of lead weights when sport fishing, and clarify the use of sport-caught bait. License and reporting proposals would create a mandatory reporting system for sport fishing, specify harvest record reporting requirements, and address situations where duplicate licenses are issued.

There are also proposals in to define the term ‘compensation.’ That was proposed by ADFG, and would clarify what sport fishing guiding is. According to the proposal, it would make it more difficult to avoid guiding regulations because there would be less ambiguity.

On the commercial side, the board will look at allowing groundfish registration by additional methods, allowing additional means of notification for emergency order announcements, and requiring a Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission permit holder to have proof of identification at certain times. Another proposal would also create a policy for how the board addresses permit stacking.

The board will also consider several area-specific proposals at the statewide meeting.

Those include a change to the Chignik District tanner crab weather delay criteria, changes to the Aleutian Islands red king crab regulations, and a change in the closed water at the Tsiu River for the Yakutat Salmon fishery.

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

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