Fish board wraps up

More leeway granted to local fishery managers

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting adjourned Tuesday after carrying 42 of 286 proposals.

On the table for Tuesday's deliberations were proposals dealing with Northern District, Kenai and Kasilof management plans for commercial and sport fishing.

Proposal 130 addressed the Upper Cook Inlet Salmon Management Plan. With the addition of substitute language, the proposal gives authority to fishery managers to open commercial fishery closure windows if there are high levels of overescapement.

Although the proposal gives more flexibility to managers, the board's intent is that managers will manage within certain guidelines.

If it becomes necessary to depart from set commercial plans in order to stay within escapement goal ranges, managers must complete a series of actions to attempt to lower escapements: first, allocating additional emergency order hours; second, reducing or eliminating the shifting window; and finally, reducing or fully opening set windows.

"It was our intent to make sure that the staff had the tools in the box to be able to manage the fisheries," said board chairman Mel Morris. "We've told them what the priorities are and then they know their options."

Board members felt that giving more control to managers with the adoption of proposal 130 fixed many of the issues addressed by other proposals dealing with fishery management.

"I think that given the action taken of proposal 130, where the commissioner was given more flexibility to manage, many of these proposals have been taken care of," said board member Howard Delo. "I think most people will be comfortable with the fact that the (Department of Fish and Game) now has the ability to manage the fishery."

Before addressing a myriad of possible changes, board members wanted to see how the new management plan affects fisheries.

"It is my intent ... to not have any big sweeping changes at this point," said board member Jeremiah Campbell. "Let's see what happens over the next three years."

Through proposals 206 and 208, the board also gave managers more flexibility to reduce bag limits and possession limits or to allow for additional harvest of sockeye, depending on abundance.

"It gives the department the flexibility to ... (do) whatever they would deem appropriate," Delo said.

The adoption of these proposals may put to rest some residents' concerns voiced at the hearing of public testimony in Soldotna that the board has not granted enough authority to let managers manage the fisheries they way that they see fit.

In addition to proposals 130, 187, 206 and 208, the board passed eight proposals on Tuesday including:

* 301, restricting the use of a motorized vessel for fishing on the upper Kenai River near Kenai Lake;

* 321, allowing sport fishing guides on the Kenai River to operate for charitable events on two Sundays in May and the first Sunday in June;

* 324, which failed its first vote but was passed after reconsideration, allowing a registered guide vessel on the Kenai River to carry more than five persons upstream of Skilak Lake in July;

* 328, prohibiting guides on the Kenai River from fishing while clients are present;

* 329, aligning vessel registration regulations with Department of Natural Resources requirements;

* 166, adjusting the Kasilof River salmon management plan to have a fixed 36-hour window for commercial fishing set on Fridays through July 7;

* 181, arranging that the Kasilof River Special Harvest Area rarely be used and only for conservation reasons; and

* 171, moving guided sport fishing regulations out of commercial fishing regulations.

Each user group got a piece of this board's pie and overall, meeting attendees representing various industry interests, including Roland Maw, executive director for the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, and Ricky Gease, executive director for the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, said they were, for the most part, pleased with the board's decisions.

Hannahlee Allers can be reached at hannahlee.allers@peninsulaclarion.com.



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