Board of Fisheries convenes at Cordova Center

Hatchery, crab issues a high priority for community

Alaska Board of Fisheries Executive Director Glenn Haight addresses a meeting at the Cordova Center. (Nov. 30, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Salmon hatcheries and commercial shellfish opportunities are high priorities on the agenda of the Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting underway in Cordova from Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, with action expected on most proposals by the meeting’s conclusion.

Proposals aimed at reducing the presence of hatchery fish mixing with wild stocks, as proposed by Northwest and Alaska Seine Association in Girdwood, Pioneer Alaskan Fisheries of Homer and Virgil Umphenour, a former Board of Fisheries member in Fairbanks, attracted dozens of comments prior to the meeting, mostly in opposition.

Salmon Hatcheries For Alaska, advocating for current regulations in place for the hatcheries, has for the several weeks sent out emails encouraging hatchery advocates to make their views known to the Board of Fisheries. An online message from the organization says that Alaska’s hatcheries produce “hatchery-born, ocean-raised wild salmon for the consumption and economic benefit of all user groups in Alaska and maintains Alaska’s economic foothold in the marketplace outside.”

The hatcheries have strong support from Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp., whose stated mission is to “optimize salmon production in the Prince William Sound for all user groups, including commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence.”   PWSAC also notes its economic clout, contending that PWSAC impacts over 1,400 jobs and has an economic annual output of over $192 million. Umphenour’s focus is on the interaction of hatchery salmon with wild salmon.

“There is an over-production of hatchery pink salmon that threatens wild Alaska stocks,” Umphenour wrote in Proposal 55, in which he urges amendments to private nonprofit hatchery permits to decrease allowable hatchery production. “The magnitude of releases of hatchery-produced pink salmon in Prince William Sound poses a threat to wild stocks of salmon in the Gulf of Alaska.

“Northwest and Alaska Seine Association’s Proposal 48 urges management guidance for reducing Eshamy District harvest of salmon stocks bound for other districts by use of emergency orders based on the surplus of wild and enhanced salmon stocks returning to the district and to reduce harvest of stocks bound for other districts.

“The Eshamy District has no wild chum systems and little or no pink salmon systems, yet every year there are large numbers of both species intercepted in the Eshamy district prior to July 21.  The majority of these wild chum and pink salmon, based on index stream escapement numbers are likely bound for the Northwest and Northern Districts, exclusive seine areas.”

Shellfish proposals under consideration by the board include Proposal 64, from Cordova District Fishermen United, calling for establishment of a golden king crab commercial fishery in Registration Area E.  “Current regulations do not differentiate between red, blue and golden king crab, and prohibit all commercial king crab fishing within Prince William Sound,” says the CDFU proposal.  “There is no regulatory framework in place for a golden king crab fishery specifically.”

Under current regulations golden king crab may be harvested from Jan. 15 through March 15 only under conditions of permit issued by the commissioner of Fish and Game.

Separately, in Proposal 67, CDFU calls for establishment of a golden king pot limit in Registration area E. Adding a pot limit in regulation will allow the department more control in management of the fishery,” the proposal says.

CDFU’s Proposal 69 calls for modifying criteria for opening commercial Tanner crab fishing in Prince William Sound, by adding “a back-up trigger for the tanner crab fishery that does not depend solely on a trawl survey.”  CDFU argues that trawl surveys “have failed us for the last 30 years and we need another option to assess stock levels in the event of a prolonged closure- as was accomplished most recently by the successful Tanner Crab Commissioner’s Per fishery and provided important data to the department.” 

Proposal 69 proposes that any district in Area E that is closed to commercial Tanner Crab fishing for five or more years be eligible to open under conditions of a commissioner’s permit.

For those not planning to attend the Cordova meeting in progress in person, the Board of Fisheries intends to make the audio from fisheries meetings available via its website at cdv.tiny.us/bof.

During the meeting, written public comments from any one individual or group may be submitted via email at dfg.bof.comments@alaska.gov.