Motors take center stage at advisory committee

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee recommended changes to a proposal that would make it illegal for dipnet fishermen to fish from a boat that doesn't carry a four-stroke or direct fuel injected two-stroke motor on the Kenai River by the year 2010. If the Board of Fish listens to the advisory committee, dipnetters will not be able to fish from a vessel powered by a two-stroke motor starting next year.

"(The committee) is concerned about people who have two motors on the boat, like a small trolling boat that they might use in the Cook Inlet fishery," said Robert Begich, sportfish area manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "It would still allow them to use their four-stroke (motor) in the dipnet fishery."

Proposals 221, 222 and 223 address the hydrocarbon issue on the Kenai River and are among 14 personal-use fishery proposals discussed at the first advisory committee meeting of the season.

The Board of Fish will take up these proposals at its Anchorage meeting from Feb. 1 to Feb. 8, 2008. The public comment deadline is Jan. 18, but Gary Dawkins, chairman of the advisory committee, said the board will take public testimony during the first two or three days of the meeting cycle. More information on the proposals can be found at the Board of Fisheries Web site at www.boards.adfg.state.ak.us/fishinfo/index.php.

Joe Connors, a committee member and a guide, recommended changing the language on proposal 221 so fishermen wouldn't be penalized for having a two-stroke engine on their boat if they weren't using it.

"The intent of the rule is so people don't use two-strokes while fishing," he said.

Even though the Department of Fish and Game supports prohibiting two-stroke motors in the dipnet fishery, Begich said dipnetters could still use two-strokes below the Warren Ames Bridge and agreed that the proposal should be worded differently. The extra two years would have given dipnetters time to phase in new motors, he said.

Proposal 222 would seek to reduce the level of hydrocarbons in the personal-use dipnet fishery by allowing dipnetters with odd registration numbers to fish on odd days and those with even registration numbers to fish on even days. Begich told committee members that Fish and Game was opposed to this proposal because the department felt it didn't go far enough to reduce the level of hydrocarbons in the river.

Fish and Game also opposed proposal 223, which would require two-stroke vessels used by dipnetters to be anchored with the engines off on the downstream side of the Warren Ames Bridge.

"It's unclear whether the aim is to reduce hydrocarbons or restrict dipnetting," Begich told committee members.

After the meeting, committee vice chair Mike Crawford said requiring dipnetters to anchor their boats would "throw a major monkey wrench" into the system. If the boat is anchored it's an ineffective way to dipnet, he said.

"If you want to see some upset people pass that one," he told Begich at the meeting.

Even though the committee recommended changing the language of proposal 221, they supported it and opposed proposals 222 and 223 because they were "in direct opposition" with the first proposal. There was some discussion as to the status of the proposal to phase out two-stroke motors in the Kenai River Special Management Area and Begich informed committee members that it hasn't been signed into law yet, but the Division of Natural Resources is moving forward with it.

The advisory committee also opposed a proposal that would have the dipnet fishery begin when the biological escapement goal of 450,000 sockeye salmon had been reached. Connors said people plan for the dipnet fisheries when they're at a certain date and making the opener subject to the number of sockeye salmon that make it into the rivers is hard on people who live in Anchorage or Fairbanks.

"They wouldn't be able to plan for it," he said. "It would take a couple of days for them to get their butt in gear and get down here."

In other action, the committee:

* Opposed proposal 212 and 213, which would make the opening of the dipnet fishery subject to biologic escapement goals.

* Opposed proposal 214, which would add days lost to early closure of the personal-use dipnet fishery.

* Opposed proposal 215, which would allow dipnetters to harvest an additional 15 sockeye salmon for each dependent of the permit holder if more than 850,000 fish make it past the sonar counter at mile 19.

* Opposed proposal 216, which would double the annual harvest limit of sockeye salmon in the personal-use dipnet fishery at the Kasilof River.

* Opposed proposal 217, which would reduce the harvest limit for the personal-use dipnet fishery to five salmon per person or 25 salmon per household.

* Opposed proposals 218 and 219, which would lower the annual limits for personal use salmon harvest.

* Opposed proposal 220, which would prohibit personal use dipnets with a mesh size greater than two and a half inches.

* Opposed proposal 224, which would allow the use of rod and reel in the personal use fishery.

The advisory committee will hold its next meeting on Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. when Begich will discuss proposals relating to Kasilof River salmon and Kenai River fresh water resident species.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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