A proposal that would have favored allocating more fish for personal use and sport fishing anglers over commercial harvesters whose entry into the fishery is limited was defeated on March 11 by the Alaska Board of Fisheries.
The Kenai River Sportfishing Association had advocated in its Proposal 171 before the board for an adaptive management process based the history of each personal use, sport, guided sport and commercial fishery with emphasis on the previous 20 years. KRSA cited the importance of each fishery in providing recreational opportunities for residents and nonresidents alike, and for residents to harvest fish for personal and family consumption.
Commercial harvesters objected, citing the fact that since passage of the Limited Entry Act in 1972, the number of commercial salmon fishermen harvesting in the state has been limited.
“Limiting the consideration of the history of a fishery to 20 years and prioritizing decisions based on the number of participants effectively ignores the fact that the number of commercial salmon fishermen in our state has been static since the Limited Entry Act was passed in 1972, while other salmon fisheries statewide have grown unchecked in that same amount of time,” said Chelsea Haisman, executive director of Cordova District Fishermen United, and a third generation commercial harvester.
“It ignores the investment that many Alaskans have made, in our economy, in our rural areas, and around the state,” she said in testimony before the board.
As it currently stands, the board already has the authority to make any allocation decisions using existing criteria. The language in this proposal would limit that authority, and effectively forces the board to make decisions that favor certain fisheries.
CDFU also opposed proposal 169, to repeal and readopt the policy for statewide salmon escapement goals, and proposal 170, to amend the policy for management of sustainable salmon fisheries, both of which unanimously failed. Both were proposed by Jeff Fox, a former state fisheries biologist.
Fox said that the policy for statewide salmon escapement goals is not serving the fishing public or the state very well and need to be rewritten and simplified, and that the policy for management of sustainable salmon fisheries “is cumbersome, confusing and misleads the public as to what the board and department are managing the salmon fisheries to achieve. This policy has numerous prescriptions which neither the board nor department follow, which need to be removed,” according to his Proposal 170.
CDFU contended that Proposal 169 would significantly alter the way area biologists manage the fishery resource in many areas of Alaska.
“Changing the statewide policy is not appropriate to address concerns in one region, and would change management practices considerably, particularly in areas of mixed stock fisheries, such as the Copper River and Prince William Sound,” CDFU said in written testimony. “Current management practices have produced some of the largest salmon runs on record within the last 10 years and there is no reason to change a system that is working.”
CDFU also said in written testimony that neither proposal made sense for management area E. Proposal 170 removes language allowing for regional biologists to make management decisions with consideration to environmental change and existing harvest patterns, and removes use of in-river goals, which could have significant and unintended allocative impacts within Area E, CDFU said, in opposing Proposition 170.