Kodiak BOF session to take up intercept issues

Fields: intercept occurrences of Upper Cook Inlet bound fish are unpredictable

A long-term controversy over interception of salmon stocks between Kodiak Island and Cook Inlet is expected to highlight the upcoming meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting at Kodiak Jan. 11-14.

Two proposals submitted by the United Cook Inlet Drift Association urge restriction of commercial salmon fisheries in the Kodiak area to limit interception of fish that UCIDA argues are known to be stocks headed for Upper Cook Inlet.

Kodiak harvesters, who dispute this claim, have the backing of the Kodiak City Council, which passed a resolution on Oct. 10, urging the fisheries board to maintain traditional management of the Kodiak salmon fishery.

“It seems a fool’s errand to put additional closures in the Kodiak area based on random occurrences both year by year and place by place,” said Duncan Fields, chairman of the Kodiak Salmon Work Group. Restrictions proposed by UCIDA in proposals 65 and 66 would limit July harvests of sockeyes bound for Upper Cook Inlet and restrict some commercial seine fishing in the Kodiak management area to conserve Chinook stocks.

“These proposals represent serious and significant threats to Kodiak’s historical salmon fishery and could reduce revenue to Kodiak salmon fishermen by as much as 35-40 percent,” Fields warned in a letter to the Kodiak Island Borough back in September 2019. “In other words, the proposals have the potential to put several small boat fishermen from Kodiak out of business.”

The city of Kodiak subsequently passed a resolution urging the fisheries board to maintain the status quo on management of Kodiak salmon fisheries.

UCIDA contends that recent genetic data shows that the Kodiak salmon fishery intercepts sockeyes bound for Upper Cook Inlet to a relatively high degree, and that it is reasonable that Kodiak be required to reel back on Upper Cook Inlet sockeyes at least in nonterminal fisheries.

To offset what UCIDA contends is Kodiak’s bycatch, or indirect harvest, of sockeyes bound for Upper Cook Inlet, Proposal 65 urges closure of Kodiak’s Mainland District west of the Dakavak Bay Section between June 8 and July 25. According to UCIDA there are no local Kodiak sockeye runs in this known Upper Cook Inlet sockeye migration corridor.

UCIDA’s Proposal 66 calls for creation of a new Kodiak area management plan to minimize the seine harvest of Cook Inlet and other non-local salmon stocks. This new umbrella plan would cover the last week of June and four weeks of July.

UCIDA contends, in Proposal 66, that Kodiak harvesting of Cook Inlet and other non-local stocks was recognized by ADF&G and the board as a problem as far back as 1988, and that now thanks to genetic studies much more is known about the timing, locations, extent and magnitude of the harvests of Cook Inlet bound salmon stocks intercepted in commercial harvests at Kodiak.

While there have indeed been incidental catches of Cook Inlet bound salmon in the Kodiak area, such interceptions are unpredictable and random, Fields said.

All portions of the Kodiak meeting are open to the public and a live audio stream will be available on the board’s website at boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov

Copies of advanced meeting materials, including the agenda and roadmap, are available from the Boards Support Section by calling 907-465-4110 or online at adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo.

Once proposal deliberations begin, the board will only accept written public comments that do not exceed five single-sided pages or the equivalent double-sided pages.

The board advises that comments submitted after the board begins deliberations on relevant proposals are likely to get less consideration than comments submitted earlier. Those not in attendance at Kodiak may submit written comments via fax to 907-465-6094.