ANCHORAGE - Alaska’s Board of Fisheries is considering changes to the commercial Pacific cod fishery in Cook Inlet, but Kenai Peninsula residents have mixed views on the proposals.
At the board’s Pacific cod meeting in Anchorage, which began Friday and is expected to end Tuesday, the board is considering an increase to the allowable state waters Pacific cod catch in Cook Inlet and allowing longline gear in that fishery, both proposed by fishermen.
The board is likely to make a decision Sunday.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Jan Rumble said the state waters fishery has hit record catch and participation levels in recent years, but the Cook Inlet catch has not yet reached the guideline harvest in any year, with about 4.4 million pounds taken in 2011, and 4.2 million in 2012. The catch those years had a value of about $1.6 and $1.7 million, respectively. About 40 vessels prosecuted the fishery in 2011 and 2012. Currently, only pot and jig gear is allowed.
The board, or BOF, is responsible for making certain fisheries management policy decisions for the state, including setting seasons, bag limits, methods and means for fisheries, and making allocation decisions. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG, is responsible for day-to-day fisheries management, based on the direction provided by the board.
The board has 37 Pacific cod proposals to consider at the meeting. The majority are focused on increasing the state waters catch. Increasing the state waters fisheries would shift management from the federal government to the State of Alaska.
The state manages fisheries from Alaska’s coast to three miles from shore, as well as in rivers and lakes, while the federal government is responsible for management from 3 to 200 miles offshore. The state manages both a guideline harvest level fishery, which the catch increase addresses, and a parallel fishery, which operates in state waters but generally follows the federal regulations.
An increase to the Cook Inlet catch would come out of the federal fishery.
Federal managers set an acceptable biological catch, or ABC, for the central Gulf of Alaska, and then the State of Alaska takes a certain percentage of that figure as the guideline harvest level for each Cook Inlet, Kodiak and Chignik.
For Cook Inlet, the GHL is 3.75 percent of the ABC.
Then, the federal fishery uses the remainder of the ABC, after those GHL amounts are deducted, as its total allowable catch, or TAC, for the central Gulf. The parallel fishery harvest also comes out of the federal TAC.
Another proposal would allow longlines in the state fishery.
Right now, each gear type is allocated a certain portion of the Cook Inlet harvest limit. Under the proposal, longline gear would be allowed as of July 15, only if a portion of the GHL had not yet been caught.
Longline gear is allowed in neighboring Prince William Sound.
During the committee of the whole process on Saturday, and public testimony Friday, the board heard significant testimony from Kenai Peninsula residents who participate in the fishery. They offered mixed views on any changes.
Homer resident Buck Laukitis testified in support of state waters expansions.
“The fish are there, the state should manage them,” Laukitis said.
Members of the Homer-based K-Bay Fisheries Association, including David Polushkin and Andrey Reutov, said they opposed increasing the state waters fisheries. Both are from the Homer area, and participate in state and federal fisheries with smaller boats.
“Taking federal TAC and moving it into state waters where longline fleet would be drastically hurt is not a good idea,” David Polushkin said.
K-Bay’s Andrey Polushkin, who is a longline fisherman out of Homer and also drifts for salmon, said he supported allowing longline gear in the state fishery.
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.