Three new hatchery management plans for Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association-run facilities were approved after extensive discussion along with a modification to the original proposals during the Lower Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries Tuesday meeting.
At issue was a component of the aquaculture association’s proposals which some interpreted as a deviation from the way the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has restricted fisheries that the hatcheries rely on for brood stock recovery and cost recovery goals.
The three facility plan proposals, Tutka Bay Lagoon, Port Graham and the Trail Lakes Salmon Hatchery each contained language to define Alaska Department of Fish and Game “priorities in managing salmon harvest.”
Currently, ADFG can, by emergency order, restrict common property fisheries — including sport and commercial— if a fishery is projected not to make its escapement goal, including the hatchery’s brood stock collection goal.
The brood stock collection requires a certain number of fish to collect eggs and milt in order to continue a hatchery program. Several years ago the aquaculture association reduced its hatchery programs to one facility — Trail Lakes Hatchery Gary Fandrei, executive director of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, wrote in an email.
The facility produces sockeye, or red salmon, and most of them return to Resurrection Bay. Originally the association produced salmon to return to Kachemak and Kamishak bays, but those returns were poor and the association was unable to do cost retrieval at those locations.
“Thus, by necessity we have concentrated (cost recovery) at Res. Bay,” Fandrei wrote.
However, the aquaculture association has struggled to meet both its cost recovery and its brood stock goals in the area and has been looking for ways to improve both, said Dave Martin, a commercial fisherman who sits on the board for the aquaculture association.
“We’re not at the point of full production and multiple cost recovery sites around because of delays, (such as) getting permitting from the state to have multiple brood stock places for other projects so we can have more than one cost recovery site,” he said. “All the eggs have been in one basket for cost recovery and we’ve had some issues.”
During public testimony before the board some anglers said they were concerned the aquaculture association was attempting to change hatchery management plans to allow restriction of fisheries when the hatchery was not able to harvest enough fish to meet its cost recovery goals.
Seward, which sits at the head of the bay, sees several fishermen use services in town before going to a sport fishery that ADFG suggests is harvests 5,000 fish a year.
Some at the aquaculture association said the number was much higher and testified to the board that as many as 30,000 fish were taken in the sport fishery.
Dianne Dubuc, a member of the Seward Fish and Game Advisory Committee, described during her testimony a fishery that forced anglers to walk more than a mile along mud flats to reach. Reported harvests of 30,000 fish were greatly exaggerated, she said.
During ADFG testimony on the issue, Matt Miller, regional fisheries management coordinator, suggested a slight change in the language of the proposals which would allow the Board of Fisheries to direct ADFG to continue managing hatcheries as they had in previous years — thus alleviating concerns that a sport fishery could be restricted so the aquaculture association could make more money off of its fish stocks.
“Using our emergency order authority to restrict fisheries for escapement goals, that’s a biological issue. When you start getting into ideas of cost recovery it starts getting into business issues and that’s much more allocative,” Miller said. “The (Board of Fisheries) deals with allocation issues and (ADFG) stays away from that. So we were really hesitant to try and use (emergency order) authority to manage the sport fishery for cost recovery in season.”
While the Seward A/C opposed the proposals unanimously, Dubuc said she was satisfied with the changes in the regulatory language after the board voted to approve the proposals.
Runs are expected to improve in Resurrection Bay by 2015, Fandrei wrote, stocks from the new hatchery operations are being developed to help the aquaculture association expand the special harvest areas it uses for cost recovery.
Re-opening the Tutka Bay Lagoon will provide a pink salmon return to Tutka Bay beginning in 2015, he wrote.
“At full production, two to four million pink salmon should return annually. These pink salmon will provide another source of cost recovery,” he wrote. “Port Graham Hatchery should produce as many pink salmon as Tutka beginning in 2016.”
Still, the money could take several years to materialize and the aquaculture association is struggling to operate its facilities now, Martin said.
“It takes time to build these fisheries up, in the course of 5-10 years to get them up to speed,” he said. “You’ve got five to 10 years of cost before your stock starts coming back in any numbers.”
While sport fishermen will continue to fish on hatchery stocks in Resurrection Bay, Martin said the potential commercial fishery would not be able to benefit from the fish.
“What this did was put the whole burden on the commercial industry to be closed down to make sure (the aquaculture association) gets the cost recovery goals,” he said. “Plus, two percent of the commercial harvest goes into the aquaculture association. Whereas the sports fishery may be restricted to get the brood stock goals and the escapement goals into the system, but will not be restricted to make the cost recovery goals.”
Martin said he did not understand the logic in restricting one fishery, but not the other.
“We’re doing projects that benefit everybody and have created new fisheries where there weren’t fisheries before or where they were miniscule,” he said. “Everybody should participate in the cost of producing these fish because everybody is going to gain the benefit. To jeopardize (the) cost recovery goal to get these project is kind of like cutting your nose off to spite your face.”
Reach Rashah McChesney at email@example.com