ANCHORAGE — During its fifth and final day of meeting on statewide finfish and supplemental issues the Alaska Board of Fisheries voted on several proposals previously addressed in sportfishing and commercial fishing committee meetings.
Among others, the board passed proposals that update area regulations to align with the statewide sport shark fishery management plan, define compensation for sportfish guides, allow certain CFEC permit violations to be prosecuted as liability offenses rather than criminal, and prohibit anglers from “high grading” their catches.
Sport fisheries proposals that passed include:
■ Proposal 226 updates area regulations on seasons, bag, possession annual, and size limits for spiny dogfish in area regulations — Including Resurrection Bay in the Cook Inlet — to align with the statewide Sport Shark Fishery Management Plan.
Tom Vania, Southcentral regional fisheries management coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the statewide management plan had been changed in 2010 and allowed bag and possession limits of five spiny dogfish sharks, however, area regulations had not been updated to reflect the change.
■ Proposal 228 prohibits anglers from “high grading,” or keeping fish alive and then releasing them after landing a bigger fish. According to the Fish and Game generated proposal, limiting the ability to high grade will reduce unnecessary mortality for fish. Vania said the regulation stipulated that a fish did not become part of an angler’s bag limit until it had been landed and killed. The new regulation replaced the word “killed” with “not immediately released.” Board member Reed Morisky, of Fairbanks, said there was concern over the definition of “immediate,” however the board heard from the Department of Law that courts had defined it as “prior to doing any other action that is not related to that particular requirement.”
■ Proposal 229 requires resident and non-resident anglers who buy multiple fishing licenses in the same year to transfer all of their harvest information from that year onto the new license.
■ Proposal 231 defines “compensation” for sportfish guides. Currently there is no definition in regulation. According to Fish and Game’s proposal it would help enforcement officers prevent abuse of current regulations by organizations and people who had not gotten guide or guide business licenses.
“We heard a number of anecdotes about how this type of privilege was being abused,” said Tom Kluberton, board member from Talkeetna.
Commercial fisheries proposals approved include:
■ Proposal 220 allows groundfish gear registration to be completed by fax, telephone or email in addition to in person, by mail or via radio.
■ Proposal 222 allows CFEC holders in violation of regulation requiring them to provide proof of identification when selling fish or at the request of police to be prosecuted under a strict liability violation rather than the current regulation, which requires a misdemeanor charge.
“The only problem I’ve seen with this proposal was the amount of paper it took to publish the amount of support that came in,” Kluberton said. “I really appreciate the department of public safety bringing this forward, it creates a much more amenable atmosphere between law enforcement and fisheries.”
■ Proposal 223 specifies that a salmon net fishing vessel cannot have fished “under the current registration year” when being reregistered in another area. While salmon net fishing vessels can only be registered in one area at a time, according to Fish and Game’s proposal there was no definition of when it qualified to be re-registered.
Proposals that were discussed extensively, but ultimately failed, included one that would have created a dispensation for disabled fishermen to be able to use felt-soled shoes while fishing and another which would have put a statewide ban on lead weights of a certain size in sport fisheries.
Two controversial proposals were not taken up after the initial sponsors removed their support. One, a proposal by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association would have created a statewide policy that the board would have to follow when taking up permit stacking proposals. Another by Fish and Game which would have allowed it to restrict proxy fishing.
The proposal, 227, would have allowed the department emergency order authority to modify sport fishing proxy limits when limits were decreased for all other sport anglers. According to the department’s proposal, proxy fishing beneficiaries would still have been able to receive fish by proxy, however specific fisheries that were restricted such as those for silver or king salmon, would have been off limits.
According to the proposal it was intended to be used as a tool to restrict fisheries when there was a conservation concern.
During the committee meeting on the proposal, users testified that they had seen fishermen who reached daily bag limits for certain species — which sometimes require that an angler stop fishing upon reaching the limit — continue to fish for hours under proxy fishing regulation.
Charlie Swanton, director of the sportfish division of Fish and Game, said current regulation stipulates than an angler may only have two bag limits.
“That’s a regulation that some people were unaware of,” Swanton said. “That really kind of capture most of people’s concerns with regards to proxy fishing.”
After public testimony, Swanton said Fish and Game decided to withdraw their support for the proposal because it would not have been a useful regulatory tool and could have restricted access to the state’s resources.
“These other tools that we have right now are more balanced in terms of spreading opportunity … across the board without picking one individual that may or may not be able to participate,” he said.
Swanton said the proxy fishing proposal was an example of the public process at the Board of Fisheries meeting working.
“The proposals and the positions that we take … are draft,” he said. “Nobody is perfect in regards to synthesizing information and understanding the potential ramifications of a regulation… In some cases, the additional, broader perspective gives you a different position.”
Rashah McChesney can be reached at Rashah.firstname.lastname@example.org.