By Lee Leschper
Should all Alaska fishermen, commercial and non-commercial, be closed out of fishing when salmon runs are not meeting escapement goals?
Specific to Upper Cook Inlet, should sport fishermen and dipnetters also be blocked from fishing, when commercial fishermen are restricted because a run is low or late?
The Alaska Board of Fisheries has that proposition before it this week. The Board will meet October 17-19, 2017, at the Egan Civic & Convention Center, 555 West 5thAvenue, Anchorage, Alaska beginning at 8:30 am.
Normally the Board makes regulation changes in a 3-year cycle, and the Upper Cook Inlet regulations were considered at the February-March 2017 meeting. But there’s a provision for “Agenda Change Requests,” basically proposed changes out of cycle.
The Board has 18 ACRs before it this week. Most are focused on tweaks in the Yukon and Kuskokwim salmon fisheries. But ACR 10 is specific to Cook Inlet salmon and proposes to:
“Close and open all commercial, personal use and sport fisheries concurrently when salmon escapement goals are not going to be achieved in Upper Cook Inlet.”
If approved as proposed, this could mean that a low or late sockeye run to the Kenai, as happened this year, could both close the river to sport fishermen and dipnetters until the escapement goal had been met.
There’s also the reality that when drift and set net commercial fishermen are fishing, there’s a negative impact on the other groups of fishermen. Both sockeye and kings taken in nets obviously never get to the other fishermen.
Karen Craig, who identifies herself as commercial, sport and subsistence fisherman, submitted the proposal.
The specifics she cited for the proposal include “all stakeholders must share the burden of conservation and meeting escapement goals,” and to correct “late and sporadic run time of the Kenai sockeye salmon” unforeseen in current regulations.
“This is a non-allocative request, it is sharing of the conservation concern by all user group,” her proposal ads.
It’s popular, among whoever is getting closed out of a fishery, to demand for fairness. But fairness in allocating fisheries often flies in the face of both biology and economics.
The Copper River, for example, was closed to sport and subsistence fishermen this summer, while commercial fishermen harvested a huge and unsuspected number of king salmon along with the sockeyes they were targeting. By the time fishing was allowed for sport and subsistence fishermen, the commercial fleet had taken several times the forecast number of kings.
The Kenai’s runs in 2017 also didn’t match forecasts or historic trends. The king salmon run was the strongest in many years, as new sport fishing restrictions went into effect in the river. And the sockeye run was low and late through most of the popular sport and subsistence fishing weeks, then surged late to meet escapement goals after most fishermen had quit fishing.
The Anchorage meeting is described as a work session, with no regulatory action to be taken at this meeting. But an ACR approved here would get a proposed change on the agenda the coming year, instead of in 2020.
Agenda topics may include: election of officers, agenda change requests, petitions, meeting organization, creation of board generated proposals, establishing committees for the 2017/2018 meeting cycle, setting locations and dates for the 2019/20 meeting cycle, informational reports, executive sessions and administrative issues that may come before the board.
The board’s 2017 agenda change requests (ACRs) are available for review on the board’s website. ACRs are submitted by the public, advisory committees, and agencies seeking regulatory change for regions and species not up for deliberation in the current meeting cycle.
The board will accept an ACR as a proposal for the 2017/2018 meeting cycle based on guidelines found in 5 AAC 39.999 which includes the ACR is:
- For a fishery conservation purpose or reason.
- To correct an error in a regulation.
- To correct an effect on a fishery that was unforeseen when a regulation was adopted.
The board will also hear reports for ADF&G staff on fish runs of concern, as well as how 2017 runs performed compared to escapement goals.
The agenda and other meeting documents, including ACRs, will be available prior to the meeting on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Board of Fisheries, meeting information webpage at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo.
These meetings are open to the public. A live audio stream is intended to be available on the Board of Fisheries’ website at www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov.
Leschper is publisher of Alaska Outdoor Digest.