Trollers concerned over limits on SE Alaska kings

A state fisheries decision to set the 2018 preseason Chinook salmon all-gear harvest limit for Southeast Alaska at 130,000 treaty fish is prompting concern from the Alaska Trollers Association in Juneau.

ATA has always supported conservation measures that resulted in measurable savings to the stocks in need of help and is committed to doing its share I the conservation burden of stocks primarily harvested in summer months that will benefit from the 10 percent cut,’ said Steve Merritt, ATA president. “However, this 10 percent reduction goes beyond reason when considering the savings to those stocks already generated by the current conservation plans,” he said in a statement released this past week.

Merritt said the troll fleet was already suffering from restrictions in their spring and winter fisheries due to conservation plans adopted by the Alaska Board of Fisheries in January. The fact of the matter is Alaska, through these conservation plans for Alaska stocks, is also directly supporting conservation for Canadian stocks as well, the ATA statement said.

According to Charles Swanton, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, there are more Pacific salmon now than ever before since comprehensive statistics began to be collected in 1925.  Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout, however, are depressed throughout much of their range, representing only 4 percent of the total salmon catch, he said.

Reasons why these stocks are depressed could be severely degraded habitat, water flows, denuded riparian vegetation that allows for bank stabilization and keeps cold water cold, Swanton said, in email comments.  He also noted that Chinook and coho salmon are very prone to deleterious effects of freshwater habitat degradation and where they are depressed – Washington State, Oregon and Southern British Columbia/Vancouver Island, all suffer from varying degrees of habitat degradation, he said.

The problem in Southeast Alaska right now is poor ocean survival, he said. State biologists know this because for several of these systems they monitor smolt and the smolt numbers are just fine, so biologists think they are just not surviving in the early marine environment.