Efforts to move forward with proposals to limit hatchery production of salmon in Alaska were soundly rejected on Oct. 16 at an Alaska Board of Fisheries work session in Anchorage.
In the wake of reports from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, oral comments and dozens of written comments on two proposed agenda change requests, the board voted to reject both ACRs.
The board plans to hold a hatchery committee on March 8, 2019, but that agenda is yet to be announced, said Glenn Haight, executive director of the board.
The vote was 1-6 on the ACR from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association related to the increase in egg take capacity permitted in 2018 for the Valdez Fisheries Development Association’s Solomon Gulch Hatchery. The board also voted 2-5 to defeat a second ACR by former board member Virgil Umphenour of Fairbanks, who supported a cap statewide on private nonprofit salmon hatchery egg take capacity at 75 percent of the level permitted in 2000.
Most of those in attendance at the work session opposed both ACRs, including representatives of Cordova District Fishermen United.
“It went well,” said Jerry McCune, president of CDFU.
“I’ve read all the science,” McCune said during oral comments at the work session. “Nobody can say for certain what is going on in the ocean. I think what we need to be doing here is basing everything on science, and not emotion. I think we can do a better job. I encourage NOAA to go out in the ocean and I hope we can get a little better picture of what is happening,” he said.
“Don’t money with something that works,” said retired commercial fisherman and former legislator Clem Tillion, a past chairman of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. “The hatcheries are a success. Handle it with care. Leave a system that works alone.”
KRSA contended in ACR 1 that the magnitude of releases of hatchery produced pink salmon in Prince William Sound posed a threat to wild stocks of salmon in the Gulf of Alaska, and that expansion of pink salmon production in Prince William Sound hatcheries will increase the risk to wild salmon. Umphenour contended in his ACR that managers of private nonprofit hatcheries had met with the governor back in 2001 and promised to reduce production by 25 percent.
State law lists three requirements to be considered by the board before approving an agenda change request, including whether there is a fishery conservation purpose, whether the ACR would correct an error in regulation, or whether the ACR addresses an effect of a regulation on a fishery that was unforeseen when the regulation was adopted. In both cases ADF&G and the board felt both ACRs did not meet those criteria.
The fisheries board also was slated for later on Oct. 17 for a Joint Protocol Committee meeting with the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, on several matters, including Bering Sea/Aleutian Island cod assessment and management, state waters Pacific cod, and the council’s salmon fishery management plan.