Controversy follows Upper Cook Inlet Task Force effort


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At a meeting involving the Alaska Peninsula, the Board of Fisheries also talked about the work done by the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force this year.

The task force was created last fall to talk about possible changes to the late-run king salmon management plan to provide fishing opportunity in times of low king abundance, such as the situation last summer.

Board member Tom Kluberton said the task wound up with limited time at the final meeting to draft its recommendations, and used a bare-bones proposal from one member as a framework to express the varying range of ideas.

The full task force agreed on a July 21 trigger point, at which time action would be taken if the late-run king salmon escapement was predicted to fall below 15,000 fish. That was a consensus point, Kluberton said.

“From there, we tended to have different opinions,” Kluberton said. “We didn’t really view this as a voting scenario … What we chose as our approach was to bring forward the range of opinion.”

Kluberton noted that he and fellow board member Vince Webster, who co-chaired the task force, did not express final agreement or disagreement on the ideas.

The record copy, or RC, submitted on behalf of the task force captures different opinions about what happens after July 21, Kluberton said. A group was in favor of changing from the sustainable escapement goal, or SEG, to an optimum escapement goal, or OEG, with a range of 13,000 to 30,000. That could be a means of providing for fishing time while the run had an opportunity to come in.

The challenge, Kluberton said, was to provide more fishing opportunity for all gear types in the event of a late run.

Once the run comes in, the task force discussed restrictions for all gear types — in-river sport fishermen, East Side setnetters, as well as in the personal use fishery and outside marine rec fishery.

The management step-downs included no bait in the sport fishery and reducing the setnet schedule, and other paired restrictions. Kluberton said the setnetters were not in favor of gear restrictions, but were willing to give up time periods.

Now the issue will be up to the board to decide at the March statewide board meeting beginning March 19 in Anchorage.

“What we informed the task force is whatever is taken forward, the decision truly belongs to this board,” Kluberton said.

There will likely be public testimony and RCs submitted with various options, Kluberton said.

Other board members were not as happy about the outcome, or the way it was presented.

Johnstone said the public notice regarding the task force’s work was possibly misleading. The task force is listed as the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force of the Board of Fisheries, and said it conducted its final meeting in February.

“The board didn’t conduct any meeting, it was the task force,” Johnstone said.

He also disagreed with a line in the documentation that said the board forwarded along the suggestions for consideration.

“That kind of a notice that goes out to the public might suggest to the public that the board is endorsing this,” Johnstone said. “The board is endorsing nothing. The task force consists of users.”

He also disagreed with calling the task force’s work “recommendations.”

“I view it as ideas and input from the users on these ideas,” Johnstone said. “…I don’t look at this as a final recommendation.”

Kluberton said that there had been semantic mistakes made, and he had received some nasty letters, but that he hoped it could be cleaned up and gotten out there for the public to consider. He also acknowledged the hard work by staff that provided information as needed.

Johnstone said he didn’t mean to criticize the work Webster and Kluberton did.

“I really applaud their efforts,” Johnstone said.

Member Orville Huntington also thanked them, but said he had concerns about how the process went and how it was portrayed. Huntington didn’t want the task force to be seen as speaking for the board.

”I don’t know what was said, I don’t know what went on there all together. I got a lot of complaints,” he said.

Huntington also said that he had not wanted any recommendations, but just a report of what happened at the meeting. Recommendations could come from the users, he said.

Kluberton noted that the all the events of the meeting were available online, so anyone could find out what had happened at the meeting.

“You’ll find a library of information that was requested by the task force,” he said. “…It’s all out there, it’s been out there for many months.”

Webster agreed, and said he was going to address everyone’s concerns more bluntly.

“There’s a website that shows every single thing that went on at that meeting,” Webster said. “For anyone to suggest that we directed this task force in any way is either blatantly lying or they wasn’t at the meeting. We didn’t suggest anything. They all came from the task force. This before us is 100 percent from the task force members themselves and that’s what they agreed upon: the language exactly the way it’s in this.”

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@alaskajournal.com.

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