Further cutbacks sought in Southeast king salmon fishery

Posted: Sunday, May 14, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The state Department of Fish and Game has already made major cutbacks in the Southeast Alaska king salmon quota for sport fishermen, and is looking for even more reductions.

Officials told fishermen last week that the state is trying to limit the harvest to about 27,500 kings, 42 percent below last year's catch of kings.

The lower quota is the result of a new Pacific Salmon Treaty reached last year by the United States and Canada. Under the treaty, the Pacific Salmon Commission sets an all-gear quota for Southeast kings based on stock estimates.

The quota is nearly 153,000 non-hatchery fish this year for all gear types. It's up to the state to allocate the quota and manage the fisheries.

Fish and Game learned in late April that the quota could be further reduced during the season, said Rob Bentz, the Southeast management coordinator for sport fishing.

A committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission is due to meet later this month to look at the quota. Fish and Game will decide after that on how to restrict the sport harvest, Bentz said.

Fish and Game has already set the daily bag limit at one king. And it has reduced nonresidents' annual catch from the usual four kings to two fish.

The agency is considering combinations of options, which could be applied to either residents or nonresidents, or both. They include banning downriggers in May and June, limiting fishing lines to four per charter boat, closing the fishery in August and September, and time and area closures in outer coast waters.

Anglers and charter operators aren't happy about the options. Kirk Thomas, representing 36 Ketchikan-area charter operators and lodges, said his group couldn't support any measure that affects guided nonresident fishermen.

Charter operators also said the measures, which will come long after they've booked their season, make it hard to run a business.

''The thing that is screwed up here is you never know what to tell a person,'' said Juneau charter operator Mike Bethers.

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