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Upper Cook Inlet Task Force proposals rejected by Board of Fish

Think again

Posted: March 21, 2013 - 8:13pm  |  Updated: March 22, 2013 - 7:41am

After months of meetings, thousands of pages of documents and several hours of testimony from user groups in the Upper Cook Inlet, the Alaska Board of Fisheries ultimately voted unanimously to reject a proposal that would have made several changes to the management plan for the late run of Kenai River king salmon.

While the board did vote to change the management plan to reflect the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s recently released new escapement goal of 15,000 to 30,000, no other changes were made.

The proposal to make regulatory changes to the management plan came after the Board of Fisheries October 2012 work session during which the board recommended the formation of an Upper Cook Inlet Task Force.

That task force held a series of meetings before making a set of recommended adjustments to the late run management plan designed to provide equitable fishing opportunity to each user group during times of low abundance of Chinook salmon.

While the task force came to no consensus, the group did generate a proposal, which was submitted to the Board of Fisheries, however several changes were made to the proposal before board members began debating whether or not to adopt new regulatory language.

During his explanation of the proposal, Board Member Vince Webster said the fishery would be separated into two dates. Between July 10 and 20, if the forecasted escapement was below 15,000 the fisheries were going to close.

However, during a narrow window between 15,000 and 16,500 projected escapement of kings, Fish and Game could eliminate bait or prohibit the retention of king salmon in the sport fishery and reduce the setnetters to a maximum of 36 hours of fishing time per week.

After July 21, if the run was still forecast between 15,000 to 16,500 the department of Fish and Game could reduce the length of setnet gear.

Webster said the idea was to ensure some margin of fishing time, rather than just closing the fisheries.

The Upper Cook Inlet Task Force’s recommendations originally called for the Board of Fisheries to establish an optimum escapement goal of 13,000, however Board Member Tom Kluberton, who co-chaired the task force, said the lower number made people nervous.

During his testimony to the board, Chief Fisheries Scientists Bob Clark said the lower end of Fish and Game’s new escapement goal was set with caution.

“If you look around the state at the major king salmon stocks, none of them are doing well. There are record low run sizes or near record low run sizes around the state,” Clark said. “That makes us cautious about recommending goals that are different from the one we’re recommending ... (and) if we see continued low production, this goal will hedge against the stock going any further down.”

Clark said the department chose the lower end of its goal because there was a high probability of producing at least 90 percent of its maximum sustained yield, or the maximum number of fish from a stock that can be harvested sustainably.

“Below that, it drops off,” Clark said. “For example, going from 15,000 down to 13,000, the probability of overfishing doubles between just those 2,000 fish. This is a critical spot and you need to be careful how you pick it when production goes down.”

Clark said the lower end of the escapement goal was a critical point and cautioned board members to be careful when making their final decisions.

Several setnetters said they were concerned with the idea that their gear could be modified when there was no data showing that it would reduce their king salmon harvest.

Board Member Sue Jeffrey, of Kodiak, said she was concerned with the gear modification as well.

“The downside that has been told to many of us is that it puts it in regulation ... from the user group’s perspective, it definitely can do great harm to some setnetters that maybe just have one (setnet site) ... (and) that inequity is troubling to me,” she said.

Amber Every, a setnetter, said a reduction in gear size would put a financial burden on setnetters.

“Four months out from our season and we would have to buy brand new nets that we could possibly use if we get down into this ‘maybe’ situation and we can’t buy new nets,” she said.

Kluberton said setnetter Jeff Beaudoin also showed him information on the Fish and Game’s July projection numbers that would have made the task force’s recommendations more restrictive than the current management plan.

“We realized that in a piece of language ... we would have shut down the river, the setnetters and everybody because ... the late run didn’t have a projection above 15,000 until almost the 20th of July. So it was a disaster,” Kluberton said.

Ultimately, there were enough issues that the board decided to leave most of the current management plan in place.

“There was enough trouble that just going back to the management plan as it existed ... gave the department enough leeway to probably make it fine through the next season,” Kluberton said.

Setnetter Sarah Hudkins said she was satisfied with the board’s decision because she was unwilling to modify fishing gear as it would cause inequities in the harvest between setnetters.

“Once they put it into regulation, I just didn’t know if we’d get it back,” she said. “For someone who has a lot of permits, fishing one or two nets per permit was fine, but we have other people in our fishery who only have one permit, so instead of fishing three nets, they’re fishing one and it just doesn’t support our fishery as a whole.”

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Lifer
40
Points
Lifer 03/22/13 - 08:23 am
0
0
Good Decision

It's rare to see a public body like the Board of Fish reverse course when it realizes it has made a mistake. The BOF listened to lots of testimony and took into account good science provided by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and made the right decision to trash the proposal and maintain the current plan with a new late run king salmon goal. The goal is not lower, it is set in terms of the new Didson Sonar System. It is like saying, rather than run 10 kilometers, you're going to run six miles. It is the same distance just measured differently. Don't let the change in numbers fool you, nor the misinformation that will likely emerge from resource users who tried to use the crisis of 2012 to further limit commercial fishermen and hurt dip netters and MatSu anglers.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/22/13 - 11:12 am
1
0
Sad...

The purpose of the task force was to determine what, if anything could be done to best help the participants of king harvest and the kings themselves in times of low abundance. Instead of that we got nothing but some grandstanding on all sides and ultimately some massaging of numbers and the end result of basically status quo. The door has been left wide open for a repeat of the decisions made last year and further declines in the late run king runs. Sadly, the kings will be the ultimate loser in this. Politics trumps doing what is right once again...

jimbob
74
Points
jimbob 03/22/13 - 12:02 pm
1
0
No change required

It is obvious from this decision by the board of fish that until the King run is totally decimated, nothing meaningful will be done. Trouble is that money is behind everything. Guides, commercial fisherman, businesses etc all have been able to exploit the wild fish resources for years and make a good living from it. It can not be disputed that at least for now, the King run is in serious trouble. I am sorry for the people who depend on fishing for a living but no one will be making a living if the source of the demise of the king is not found. Chances are it will be the commercial fishing on the high seas that is the culprit. What is being done about that? Perhaps some form of buy out for set netters and guides should be looked at. This could possibly be financed in part, by a tax on each individual set netter and guide similar to the program in the crab fishery. While not the ideal remedy, such a buyout would reduce the number of participants to a more reasonable number. There simply isn't enough of the resource to go around.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/22/13 - 12:27 pm
0
0
history tells of demise...

jimbob--history tells the story when it comes to fish runs that have been decimated. Although habitat destruction is a huge culprit and is a factor, in most of the cases you can go and look at, commercial over harvest and by catch are, without a doubt, the majority culprit. Non selective methods of commercial harvest (gill nets/trawl nets) have been and will continue to be the source of the downfall of fish species.
In a situation like we have here now with the late run kings, the only real solution is to put caps on the numbers of fish each participant group can take in a given season based on history. Couple that with a sound management options in time of low abundance and you would be well on your way to a recovery.
We must remember that what we are fighting for is the leftovers that the ocean will bring back to us. The combination of natural and man made negative ocean conditions will do in the Cook Inlet Kings, not to mention the severely declining coho, if we do not have serious meaningful reform when it comes to by catch.

pengy
258
Points
pengy 03/22/13 - 03:04 pm
2
0
Lower the goals so all user

Lower the goals so all user groups can participate. Yup, harvest our way back to abundance sounds like a great management plan.

kenai123
1322
Points
kenai123 03/23/13 - 12:44 am
1
1
The King Culprit

Really doesn't matter if the Board of Fish expands or reduces anyone's fish catching limits. If the state fails to discover the actual culprit in the ocean, which is killing our kings, it is just a matter of time before EVERYONE is shut down in and around Cook Inlet. You cannot expect a real king solution from board members with special financial interests within the very fisheries they make policy over.

There are two procedures which would allow a solution to our king salmon problem. One is if we can remove the special financial interests from our board of fish. The other is to allow all of our salmon fisheries to collapse like they did back in 1959 because of commercial fish traps. Changing the makeup of the board would be cheap compared to losing billions of dollars within a total salmon collapse.
People need to begin thinking outside the box.. http://www.voy.com/177140/152.html

"It is not possible to solve a problem using the same way of thinking which created the problem in the first place." Albert Einstein

Raoulduke
3084
Points
Raoulduke 03/23/13 - 04:55 am
0
0
culprit is

"Bought,and Paid for Board Members".The same practices as any other Alaskan politician.These members are political appointees.Are they not?

kenai123
1322
Points
kenai123 03/24/13 - 12:40 am
1
1
Raoulduke

Alaska Board of Fish members are appointed by the governor. The governor selects persons within special interest groups, which favor his administration and are confirmable by the legislator. Most governor's believe this to be a good way to get experts within the fisheries to manage our fisheries. The state turns a blind eye to the fact that this kind of board member selection places these board members under constant suspect. How could anyone cast an honest vote with an open mind, if they stand to personally lose millions of dollars as a result of that vote? Could you vote for yourself to lose millions of dollar or for your life long friends to lose their fisheries jobs? The only place I have seen this kind of foolishness is in Alaska. It is basically illegal to stack boards like this in the lower 48 states. This is why many of our fisheries problems can go on for decades. The solution for a problem may be right in front of our faces but our special interest boards fail to act in many cases because of their personal special interests. All we need are intelligent board members with expert ADF&G advisers. We do not need expert board of fish members. This "special interest board member way of thinking" has caused many of today's non-solvable fisheries problems.

A prime example is our current statewide king salmon problem. If a king solution were discovered today and it involved shutting down a major industry which board members had financial interests in, what do you think would happen? Do you actually believe a board member would vote to financially ruin themselves or their friends?

"It is not possible to solve a problem using the same way of thinking which created the problem in the first place." Albert Einstein

Raoulduke
3084
Points
Raoulduke 03/24/13 - 05:58 am
0
0
nepotism

K123: The same goes for the State Auditor which is also a political appointee.My question.Just where DOES all the monies go? Apparently this state has a different interpretation of "Conflict of Interest".There is a lot of whining about the elected official's.The problem is the voters continue to elect the same crooks.Maybe some more folks need to read,and comprehend the quote of Albert Einstein.

LaFern
147
Points
LaFern 03/26/13 - 01:21 pm
0
0
Overfishing

Yet another year of fishing coming with no mentioning of overfishing being the problem. The status quo solution is always "let more people fish so nobody gets upset when everybody gets almost nothing" or "lets scapegoat some wild animal and hunt it to extinction then get back to fishing forever".

Until people, businesses, commercial operators, set netters, charters, Fish & Wildlife, and Fish & Game all recognize the problem is overfishing and there needs to be drastically less users in all waterways, the masses will keep scraping the Inlet clean of fish until the day there wont be any left.

Salmon fishing is no longer a "living" or "way of life" for anybody because there isn't a supply big enough for it. That part of our economy is gone and its time to move on. Let the fish that are left survive to help keep our ecosystem in balance.

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 03/28/13 - 06:17 am
0
0
Overcrowded, Not Overharvested

Kenai late run kings show no signs of overharvest, according to the most recent data from ADFG. In fact, the harvest rate of this stock is quite low, at an average of 39% of the total return (compared to over 70% for Sockeye). It is diifficult to overharvest a stock of fish at this level of exploitation. Low ocean survival and past years of overescapement are the most likely culprit for current years of low abundance.

That said, there are too many boats on our river. If we don't do something, it will be destroyed. Reading these comments, I think it's interesting that people suggest reducing or buying out commercial gillnetters and guides. I wonder if everyone is aware that although the number of gillnets has been limited since the 1970's, THERE IS STILL NO LIMIT ON THE NUMBER OF GUIDES OR BOATS ALLOWED ON OUR RIVER!!! A buyout would do nothing because more people would just sign up! We need limits.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/28/13 - 07:04 am
0
0
History tells the story when

History tells the story when it comes to fish runs that have been decimated. Although habitat destruction is a huge culprit and is a factor, in most of the cases you can go and look at, commercial over harvest and by catch are, without a doubt, the majority culprit. Non selective methods of commercial harvest (gill nets/trawl nets) have been and will continue to be the source of the downfall of fish species.
In many cases throughout history, commercial fishing participants were forced to innovate to reduce by catch (dolpins vs tuna fishery, turtles vs shrimp fishery) and the result was not perfect but did result in less killing of unintended species and the continuation of the fishery(ies).

Sport fishing can, should be and is regulated with a conservation minded method of operation. Sport fishing can, is and should be regulated by way of limits on harvest, gear and even the level of participation--particularly in the guided sector. The Kenai river in particular needs to be and is, heavily regulated and ultimately, a cap on the king harvest should be implemented no matter what escapement is.

The same should go for the essn fishery--a cap on the numbers of kings that can be taken in the sockeye fishery that would then require the fishery participants to either stop fishing or come up with valid ways to reduce and/or eliminate king harvest to continue to fish sockeye. At the very least, a cap, set at a reasonable level that would give a bit of pause and review of that particular situation as far as the king numbers go would be a definite help in management towards an overall conservation goal. Innovation only comes out of necessity...if it were necessary to minimize king harvest to continue to fish sockeye, you better believe a solution would be had. If it won't come from the participants themselves, it should be demanded buy everyone and forced by regulation.

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 03/29/13 - 12:30 pm
1
0
YOU... ARE... WRONG!!!

First, this is not many cases. This is one very specific case. In this case, all available SCIENCE points to low ocean productivity, likely due to natural cyclical conditions, combined with low returns from past years of very large escapements. That would be both an ocean and an inriver component. Overharvest, at least locally, has absolutely nothing to do with it. This stock is actually underharvested when compared to most salmon fisheries in the state. At least that's what our biologists tell us.

Sport fishing is NOT regulated by total harvest or particiaption. There is no limit on participation, or even a limit on the number of commercial operations allowed to run powerboats up and down our small river.

Caps on harvest would do absolutely nothing to solve our problem. Given that current data shows that we very recently overescaped our river, capping harvest could lead to similar problems in the future. Not to mention that it is foolish to not harvest an abundance of a very valuable resource.

Kenai River Late run kings have made their current escapement goal every year. While current returns are low, they are completely sustainable. As long as we take care of our river. You can keep trying to blame the dirty setnets for catching kings, but the DATA shows that they harvest a small percentage of the total run, and that this 100+ year old fishery is not the problem and is completely sustainable.

The fact that our river exceeds EPA standard for turbidity directly related to powerboat traffic in known King Salmon spawning and rearing grounds is worrisome. This is much more dangerous to the sustainability of our Kings than setnets.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 03/31/13 - 12:47 pm
0
0
Roger104, all I am saying

Roger104, all I am saying simply is, that IN THE EVENT OF TIMES OF LOW ABUNDANCE it would be nice to see the set net participants come up with some tangible, traceable, legitimate methods for reducing king harvest. All sport fisheries can be managed to be selective and catch rates can be curtailed very easily and quickly through gear, time and location restrictions. Not so easy with an unselective method of fishing with gill nets. During the whole process of this task force the set net participants approach to coming up with concessions for emergency situations during low late king abundance. To simply say there is no such thing as low abundance or the chance for low abundance and lobby for reductions and changes to the method escapement goals is disingenuous at best when it comes to the conservation of the late run kings. As happened with the smelt runs on the Columbia river, commercial and/or sport over harvest can lead to federal listing of a species and then we are all S.O.L.
And, once again, I ask you or anyone who has the information to cite specific studies done on the late run kings and the impact of over escapement. As of today, no one has been able to back up the claim that over escapement on kings is a bad thing. Would love to read and find out more...

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