Fish issues should be tabled

Advisory committee recommends board wait on 2 proposals

Posted: Monday, November 10, 2003

Saying there's not enough information available to make major changes to the state's sustainable salmon policy, the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Commit-tee voted last week to recommend that two proposals to the Alaska Board of Fisheries be tabled for at least one year.

The two proposals, numbers two and three for the board to consider, will be debated at next month's meeting in Anchorage. Both recommend changing how the Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages fisheries statewide.

Proposal two, put forward by the department, is designed to give fisheries managers more leeway in how they manage mixed stock salmon fisheries. The department claims it authored the proposal because of difficulties in setting sustainable escapement goals without having information regarding yields on mixed-stock fisheries.

The proposal would allow managers to set sustainable escapement and optimum escapement goals as ranges or thresholds according to circumstances.

Proposal three, authored by the United Cook Inlet Drifters Asso-ciation, would change regulations to allow for "maximum utilization of the state's fishery resources," and would simplify the kinds of escapement goals the department is directed to use.

Both proposals are lengthy and complicated and propose major changes to how salmon fisheries are managed. Although both may have merit, the advisory committee said it believes not enough research or public input has gone into the proposals and voted to have committee member Ken Tarbox submit a letter to the Board of Fish stating as much.

UCIDA President Roland Maw, an advisory committee member, said his organization already has determined that its proposal should not go forward at this time.

"UCIDA sent a letter to the Board of Fish and the commissioner saying that the magnitude of the changes are of such a nature they really do need to be discussed in a greater number of forums," Maw said.

Likewise, Fish and Game has said it likely will modify its proposal before bringing it before the board.

The Kenai-Soldotna advisory board voted on a number of other statewide proposals at its meeting, voting to support several while voting against nine others.

Perhaps the most substantive change the board recommended to support was proposal four, authored by Cook Inlet setnet fisher Paul Shadura. It calls for nonresidents to be restricted before residents when conservation concerns arise on a given fishery.

Board members said they were in favor of such a proposal, if only because it brings the resident-nonresident question to the table.

"It's time for the board to start hearing things like this," said board member Dwight Kramer. "We've just got too many people vying for the resource anymore."

Tarbox agreed that the question should be looked at, though he argued the proposal was not the right way to go about addressing the issue.

"I don't mind sending a message that the resident-nonresident issue should be discussed. I don't think this does it," he said.

In all, the Kenai-Soldotna board recommended the Board of Fish pass seven regulation changes. Among the other recommended changes are:

Proposal seven, which would allow commercial fishers to use nylon gillnet webbing.

Proposal 10, which calls for commercial salmon roe to be reported on a separate fish ticket to Fish and Game;

Proposal 15, which would allow the department emergency order authority to restrict the ability of anglers to clean fish while still aboard a fishing vessel;

Proposal 21, which gives department staff greater flexibility to check anglers for fishing violations;

Proposal 25, which provides greater accommodations for disabled fishers; and

Proposal 26, which makes it illegal statewide to fish with beads fixed more than two inches above a hook.

In all, the board considered 27 statewide regulation changes, voting to support the seven listed above. The board voted to not support proposals five (amend salmon escapement goal policy to include consideration of economic loss to traditional users); nine (amend the definition of a drift gillnet); 13 (amend eligibility requirement for personal use permits); 14 (modify the department's emergency order authority for consistency with the sustainable salmon fisheries policy and the escapement goal policy); 16 (prohibit guides from fishing while clients are present); 17 (repeal existing sportfishing business and guide registration programs); 18 (create a Dolly Varden sustainable management policy); 20 (create river corridor or watershed conservation measures on significant trout streams); and 28 (prohibit anchoring when fishing for halibut if it interferes with other fisheries).

In addition, the board voted to take no action on proposals six, eight, 19, 22, 23 and 24. Proposals 11 and 12 will be withdrawn before the meeting, which gets under way Wednesday in Anchorage.

A complete listing of all the proposals to be considered, including those on Bristol Bay, Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim and Alaska Peninsula-Aleutian Islands finfish areas, is available at the department's Web site at www.state.ak. us/adfg/boards/fishinfo/meetinfo/fprop.htm.

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