The Board of Fish meeting is just about over and unless a last second reconsideration is made the commercial fishery plans are set.
The Board has put coho and chinook salmon as a priority fish in upper Cook Inlet but has not stated that in regulation and yet kept the sockeye salmon goals in place which creates a conflict.
Here is the bottom line: the Board said to the Department of Fish and Game, do not fish here and do not fish many hours but make all the salmon goals. We understand that you cannot do this so we will say that our plans are not fixed so you can use your emergency order authority to manage the fisheries — wink, wink, nod, nod.
The past decade has pointed out that in-season local managers have requested to go outside plans for sockeye management, even when other goals have been met, and have been refused by Commissioners for political reasons.
In contrast to the Board, the ADF&G leadership is saying to the public, these are not our plans and if the goals are exceeded it is the fault of the Board of Fish as they are the Board’s plans.
So each has created an out for not managing the sockeye fisheries.
This was very obvious in 2012 when the Commissioner said she did not have authority to go outside the plans — ignorance or planned deception? In 2013, it appeared ADF&G would go outside plans if the political backlash is acceptable but will not when it is a political advantage.
So what is the solution to this broken system? One is to have honest representation on the Board and a new type of Board of Fish. Good representation is a choice of the Governor and a new system is up to the Legislature.
If the present Board wants to put a priority on chinook and coho salmon, say so, but also change the sockeye salmon goals so ADF&G will not fail in management. If they want to be honest with the public set the Kenai River sockeye goals higher and say we are giving up millions of dollars of yield for this other allocation priority. Instead, the Board kept the sockeye goals in place and said we can have our cake and eat it too. That, as everyone knows, is not possible.
So the dishonest approach to decision making has set everyone up to fail. The various industries are in chaos and the public is totally confused on how a season will be managed. Will the plans be followed, will a new Governor take the heat, will ADF&G finally say we have to manage to both goals and really use emergency order authority to alter plans?
It is not good public service to do what this Board has done. They are acting irresponsible in passing these plans with limitations on ADF&G emergency order authority. What they should do is remove the time and area restrictions and set the goals so ADF&G can succeed more years than fail. Once the goals are set ADF&G professional managers can use the tools they have to manage to those goals.