Board defines guide compensation, prohibits high-grading
Alaska’s Board of Fisheries took action on several proposals with implications for statewide fisheries at its Anchorage meeting March 19 to 23.
The board was asked to consider adding herring to the forage fish management plan, consider creating a statewide policy for permit stacking, define compensation in terms of guided fishing, prohibit high grading and clarify the use of sport caught bait.
Those came up as part of the statewide finfish meeting, where the board talked about issues that didn’t relate to one particular region, or that couldn’t wait until a regularly scheduled meeting in that region.
After significant public testimony, the board did not add herring to the management plan. Ultimately, board members said it was something that could be addressed in areas where there was a concern, and that the current management plans seemed to be working.
The board voted 6-0 to define guide compensation, essentially ensuring that if even if the angler was not paying, but someone else was paying for them, they were still considered a guided angler.
Board member Reed Morisky did not participate in that discussion or vote as he was ruled to have a conflict of interest. Morisky is a sportfish guide in Interior Alaska during the summer.
The board voted 7-0 to prohibit high-grading. That was intended to provide clarity for sport fishing guides, and help preserve the halibut stock in particular. The public, and the advisory committees testifying at the meeting, supported that proposal.
On the issue of sport caught bait, the board heard more differing opinions.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had asked the board to clarify that certain sport caught fish could be used as bait. The proposal added whitefish and herring, and the department said that the current language is unclear.
Previously, the regulation that said species not subject to annual limits could be used.
That passed 5-2, with board members Karl Johnstone and Vince Webster voting against it.
Webster said he disagreed with allowing a fish be used for bait if it had limits on it. Morisky said that while there are annual limits, he didn’t believe there is a particular conservation concern for whitefish.
The board took no action on a statewide policy regarding permit stacking after the propsers, Kenai River Sportfishing Association, withdrew their support and all other public comment was opposed.
The board also took no action on a proposal that would have given the department emergency order authority to restrict proxy fishing before restricting other fisheries.
That was proposed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG, but they withdrew their support when it came before the board for consideration.
Public testimony on the idea was mixed, and the public panel did not come to a consensus when the board met in committees.
Several other proposals that passed addressed house-keeping issues or kept pace with modern technology.
The board opted to allow fax and email registration for groundfish fisheries, cleared up a reference to a federal regulation that was outdated in groundfish possession and landing requirements, and changed some regulations relating to licenses.
The board had public consensus during the committee process to support allowing groundfish registration via the additional technologies.
The board also discussed fishing licenses, adding certain requirements to how sportfishing is reported, essentially ensuring that when anglers get a new license, they transfer over old license info, particularly on annual limits.
The board also had a proposal before it to allow announcement of emergency orders by email or fax. Although that had public support, the board took no action after learning that the ADFG Commissioner, not the board, was in charge of making such a regulation.
Board members did say they supported the idea. The commissioner would have to create a public comment period before changing the regulation, but staff said the discussion at the meeting could be added to that record.
The board also passed a proposal that will change the penalties for selling fish without proof of identification.
Now, law enforcement will have the option of pursuing a misdemeanor, which might be used when someone is maliciously selling fish without a license — such as if they are not actually the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission permit holder — or just giving a warning or more minor violation. That could happen when someone has genuinely forgot their license and can show it later.
Once it was determined that the proposal was just meant to give law enforcement more options, the public was supportive.
The board also increased the bag and possession limit for spiny dogfish.
Morisky was not the only board member with a potential conflict of interest, but all other potential conflicts were ruled out.
Board member Orville Huntington asked the board to consider whether his participation in the Alaska Federation of Natives, which had a resolution submitted to its board regarding the herring issue, meant he could not participate in that discussion.
Board member John Jensen also discussed a potential herring conflict. His family has a financial interest in the fishery. That was not considered a conflict because the proposal would not directly change the financial outlook of the fishery.
Board chair Karl Johnstone brought up the final conflict of interest. He is older than 65, and asked if that should disqualify him from the proxy discussion, since he could have someone fish for him by proxy if he wished. Taking over as chair, board member Tom Kluberton said that it would not, a move that others supported because so many people fall into that same category.