Board of Fisheries set for annual work session

AP Photo/Kwik’pak Fisheries LLC./Jon Rowley

A new scallop management plan and Yukon River fishery changes are among the issues Alaska’s Board of Fisheries will consider discussing outside of its regular cycle at an Oct. 9-10 work session in Girdwood.

Stakeholders and managers have asked the board to consider 14 out-of-cycle proposals via agenda change requests, or ACRs. State fisheries are considered by the board every three years, but it may add items to other meetings if it determines that there is a conservation concern or other reason that consideration for the proposal is needed more quickly than the standard process.

The board will not take action on any of those issues at the October meeting, but will be deciding if, and when, to talk about them. The ACRs are scheduled for discussion Oct. 10, when the board must decide whether or not to add the issues raised to their agenda for 2013-14 cycle.

Most issues would get added to the statewide meeting in March 2014, although the board could also opt to add them to other meetings scheduled this winter.

The board will hear preliminary reports from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG, on proposed changes to escapement goals and stocks of concern in Chignik, Kodiak and Cook Inlet.

The board will consider two ACRs to review scallop management. That fishery could revert to open access in July, well ahead of the next miscellaneous shellfish meeting scheduled for the 2014-15 meeting cycle.

The current state-waters limited entry program is set to expire at the end of December. Many of the scallop beds in Alaska straddle the three-mile line separating state and federal jurisdiction, and the two sides are managed in conjunction with one another with a single harvest level.

Permits for the state waters are managed through a vessel-based limited-entry program, and associated with federal permits issued through a license limitation program.

When the program sunsets, the state-waters fishery will revert to open access. Both ACRs address that possibility, although the Legislature could reinstate a form of limited access before the next scallop season begins in July 2014. It allowed the program to expire at the end of the 2013 session.

Donald Lane, a Homer commercial fisherman, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game submitted the scallop plan proposals.

Lane’s request carries forward many of the requirements already implemented in the fishery, and adds some additional mechanisms that he said could slow down the fishery.

In comments, ADFG wrote that the state will need additional tools to manage an open-access fishery, particularly if state-waters effort increases.

Yukon, Kuskokwim proposals

The board, which talked about Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim issues last January, is also tasked with deciding whether or not to take up several ACRs from that region.

For the Yukon, the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, or YDFDA, has asked the board to consider talking about gear changes.

YFDA, one of six Western Alaska Community Development Quota entities, has asked the board to remove the opening size restrictions for dipnets and allow monofilament purse seines on the lower Yukon. Both changes could aid fishermen targeting chums.

Last winter, the board added dipnets as an allowable gear for Yukon River fishermen in an effort to help them catch chums while avoiding kings.

Allowing any size opening on the nets could enable fishermen to find the size that catches the most chums, according to the proposal.

Adding the purse seines to the allowed gear could offer fishermen another way to harvest the chums, according to the proposal.

ADFG also submitted a proposal for the Yukon, which asks the board to remove the exception that allows a dead king salmon to be taken, but not retained, in the dipnet and beach seine commercial chum fisheries on the lower Yukon.

According to the proposal, the current language provides a loophole for fishermen, and while the fish are supposed to be forfeited to the state, that is hard to enforce.

Another proposal that could affect Yukon River fishermen would allow the use of leads on commercial fish wheels, which are used on the upper river. That was proposed by former board member Virgil Umphenour.

The Yukon River issues are not scheduled to come before the board as part of the regular cycle until 2015-16.

Another request would open up the Kuskokwim River salmon management plan out of cycle. The Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association has asked the board to review that management plan in an effort to better conserve Kuskokwim River king salmon, and suggests that gear, time and area restrictions could be considered, but does not make a specific request.

Umphenhour also submitted a proposal that could affect fisheries statewide by allowing the use of dipnets in place of setnets where there are concerns about the incidental catch of kings.

Last January, the board allowed dipnets for that reason on the Yukon. Umphenour’s proposal would extend that allowance to other fisheries, and he specifies the Copper River flats, Kuskokwim, Unalakleet and the Karluk as possible sites.

The Petersburg Vessel Owners Association has also asked for a change to bycatch accounting for groundfish vessels. The change would clarify the groundfish possession and landing requirements, according to the proposal.

Alaska Peninsula, Bristol Bay

Other ACRs also address areas discussed last year, including the Alaska Peninsula and Bristol Bay. Those are not normally set to come before the board until 2015-16.

Now, the Pilot Point Village Council is asking the board to consider adding GPS coordinates to boundaries in Area M, which is part of the Alaska Peninsula fishery. Specifically, the change would better define the salmon fishing areas in Outer Port Heiden, Ilnik and Three Hills.

Another request would affect sport fishermen on the Nushagak River, in Bristol Bay. The Nushagak Fish and Game Advisory Committee and Dillingham fisherman Dan Dunaway have asked the board to consider modifying the time-frame for the single hook regulation so that it is only in affect from May 1 to July 31, rather than year-round.

Another Bristol Bay area proposal from ADFG would remedy a navigational obstruction in the Ugashik River setnet fishery.

Also up for consideration is an ACR that would add Sitka herring to docket this year. Aaron Bean, a subsistence user, has asked the BOF to consider eliminating all non-subsistence uses of Sitka Sound herring.

Last fall, the board decided not to discuss a proposal that would have added herring to the forage management plan statewide, but indicated that they would consider discussing it on a regional basis.

Escapement Goals

The Board will also take a preliminary look at escapement goal and stock of concern changes on the table this year, although approval of ADFG’s recommendations will not come until meetings in December and January.

Oct. 9, the board is just expected to hear a preliminary report from ADFG on the recommendations.

In Lower Cook Inlet, which is up for discussion in January, ADFG has recommended changing two escapement goals out of the 40 that were evaluated.

There, the department has recommended changing the Mikfik Lake sockeyes salmon sustainable escapement goal, or SEG, from an aerial survey goal to a video-based goal. That would change the SEG from 6,300 to 12,150 fish to 3,300 to 14,000 fish under the video metric.

ADFG also recommended establishing a pink salmon SEG for Dogfish Lagoon Creeks, which has seen increased effort from commercial fishing fleet due to an improving pink salmon market.

No new stocks of concern were recommended for lower Cook Inlet.

The department’s recommendations for Upper Cook Inlet were not available as of Oct. 1, although the item was on the Oct. 9 agenda.

ADFG Commercial Fisheries Director Jeff Regnart said the memo was still going through the department’s review process after recent data, based on work done this summer and fall, was added. It would be out prior to the meeting, and likely by the end of the week, Regnart said.

Any recommended changes for Upper Cook Inlet will be up for the board to approve at the meeting that begins Jan. 31.

For the Chignik Management Area, ADFG is recommending that the sustainable escapement goal for early-run sockeye salmon of 350,000 to 400,000 fish be changed to a biological escapement goal, or BEG, of 350,000 to 450,000 fish.

ADFG is recommending changes to two Kodiak area escapement goals.

For Buskin River silver salmon, the department has recommended changing the BEG from 3,200 to 7,200 fish to 4,700 to 9,600 fish, based on adding the most recent three years of data into an analysis that looked at how many spawners produced how many recruits.

ADFG has also recommended eliminating the Little River Lake sockeye goal’s lower bound, because the assessment may no longer adequately index or monitor trends in escapement.

The Chignik and Kodiak goals will be presented to the board for approval at the December and January Chignik and Kodiak meetings, respectively. The department has not recommended any new stocks of concern for either area.

Molly Dischner can be reached at [email protected].

10/03/2013 - 7:21am