After hours of discussion during Saturdays meeting of the Southcentral Alaska Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Kenai Subsistence Subcommittee at the Soldotna Sports Center, fatigue and frustration could be seen on the faces of representatives Ricky Gease and Brent Johnson.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Much like the fish they were there to discuss, the Kenai Subsistence Subcommittee again became entangled, but this time the group did find consensus on a few issues including not to meet again in the near future.
“With a contentious topic like this and it is contentious coming to a consensus is a real challenge,” said facilitator Dick LaFever.
The Southcentral Alaska Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Kenai Subsistence Subcommittee met at the Soldotna Sports Center on Saturday to continue the task they were charged with, but made no progress on, during their Feb. 3-4 meeting.
The task was to consider 12 peninsula fishery proposals and public comments on those proposals in order to formulate recommendations to the Southcentral RAC prior to the group’s March 13-16 meeting.
Recommendations were to focus on the methods, means, seasons and harvest limits for existing federal subsistence fishery proposals for the federal public waters on the Kenai, Kasilof and Swanson river drainages based on customary and traditional use determinations established by the Federal Subsistence Board.
After eight hours of discussion Saturday, there weren’t many issues the subcommittee agreed on, but nearly all in attendance said the few issues they did find consensus on meant no matter how slow the process that they were still moving forward.
“We’re getting there,” said Greg Encelewski, a Southcentral RAC member.
Several of the recommendations that will be forwarded to the Southcentral RAC were spawned from discussions based on a two-page proposal submitted by the Ninilchik Tribal Council at the Saturday meeting.
This proposal suggested that no additional subcommittee meetings should take place prior to the Southcentral RAC meeting. All in attendance agreed on this matter.
The proposal also addressed the potential use of gillnets for subsistence fishing in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, and the subcommittee agreed that it does not favor widespread use of gillnets. Specifically, the subcommittee agreed to tell the Southcentral RAC that “The group agreed that, given the information presented to the group regarding stock status and the effect of widespread use of gillnet gear on fish stock, the use of widespread gillnet use is not desirable.
However, as stated in the document to be forwarded to the Southcentral RAC, “The group was unable to reach consensus regarding the limited use of gillnets in the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. Some workgroup members do not agree with (Office of Subsistence Management) staff that the issues perceived by staff foreclose consideration of limited gillnet use. Some members of the group expressed the view that gillnets, even if restricted to a limited number and managed to minimize the impact on other fisheries, were unacceptable gear for the in-river subsistence fishery.”
There also was discussion, but no consensus on the issues of harvest amounts; seasons, methods and means; the concept of using fishwheels, dipnets or rods and reels in the Kenai or Kasilof rivers for taking subsistence fish. There also was no consensus on the summary of recommended limits for subsistence fisheries in the Kenai and Kasilof river drainages as detailed in the Office of Subsistence Management’s (OSM) Kenai Peninsula Fishery Proposal Draft Staff Analyses.
Motions were also made by Ricky Gease of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and Brent Johnson of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association, and agreed upon by the subcommittee, requesting that there be more analysis from OSM regarding “in concept only” allowing dipnetting for taking subsistence fish in Hidden Creek, in addition to the two locations already detailed in Kenai Peninsula Fishery Proposal Draft Staff Analyses.
“I think it’s a golden solution,” Johnson said in regard to the idea.
Johnson went on to explain how this fishery could be developed. He said that while nothing could be done for the next few years, theoretically if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were to approve increasing the numbers of fish returning to Hidden Lake, hatchery fry could be put into the lake at a cost of roughly eight cents apiece, and when those fish eventually come back, “they can be harvested in a very efficient and non-environmentally impactive method,” he said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@ peninsulaclarion.com.
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