By Lee Leschper
The Alaska Board of Fisheries on Tuesday unamimously rejected an Agenda Change Request (ACR 10), a proposal that would have required that all Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries be closed together–commercial, sport and subsistence–if a salmon run was falling short of escapement goals.
ACRs allow the board to consider regulation changes sooner than the regular 3-year regulation cycle, if there’s conservation or unexpected issues in a regulation or fishery, or to correct an error in a regulation. The BofF is meeting for a three-day working session in Anchorage, Oct. 17-19, to elect officers, set meeting schedules and consider Agenda Change Requests.
ADF&G staff members said that proposal did not meet any of the criteria required. It would have also created confusion and difficult in determining which fisheries and runs it might apply to.
Citing a recent case from 2017, when the Kenai late sockeye run was lagging far behind forecasts and escapement goals, the commercial harvest was about 1.3 million fish, but only 265,000 had entered the river toward an escapement goal of almost one million fish. So the July 24 and July 27 12-hour commercial fishing periods were closed, while sport and subsistence fishing continued. And the sockeye run into the river surged and eventually exceeded escapement goals.
Board member Robert Ruffner, in agreeing with staff recommendations to not approve ACR 10, cited success managing the complex fishery.
“There are going to be conservation concerns in Cook Inlet, and our charge is to conserve first,” he said. “Unfortunately that results in these more complicated management plans. But sticking to the criteria we judge these (ACRs) on, I can’t support this.”
Board chair John Jensen and member Israel Payton expressed similar concerns and all seven board members voted against the proposal, one of 18 being discussed Tuesday.
The board reelected Jensen as its chair and elected Reed Morisky, a Fairbanks fishing guide, as vice chairman.