Cook Inlet leads Agenda Change Requests for fish board
Fisheries stakeholders are asking the state Board of Fisheries to consider 27 changes out of cycle in the upcoming year.
The agenda change requests cover several regions, although the largest portion are targeted at Cook Inlet — a region that saw significant management plan changes during the 2013-14 meeting cycle.
In addition to nine Cook Inlet requests, five address Bering Sea tanner crab and Norton Sound king crab, three ask for changes to Kuskokwim River salmon fisheries, and two address Yukon River salmon fisheries. There are also two proposals each for Bristol Bay salmon fisheries, Southeast herring and Pacific cod, as well as one relating to purse seine lengths.
The Board of Fisheries sets the management plans for fisheries throughout the state on a three-year cycle. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG, is charged with carrying out those plans using the tools provided by the board.
The board will decide at its October work session in Juneau whether or not to add each ACR to its agenda for the year. They would likely be discussed in March, which is when the board’s schedule calls for supplemental issues.
The standard for accepting an ACR is if the proposal is for a fishery conservation purpose or reason, to correct an error in a regulation or to correct an effect on a fishery that was unforeseen when a regulation was adopted.
Cook Inlet is set to come back up on the board’s schedule in 2017.
The majority of the changes there were proposed by setnetters, who are asking the board to change fishery regulations in part based on how major management plan changes passed at the February 2014 Upper Cook Inlet meeting have played out this summer, although one would also limit participation and harvest in the personal use fishery.
Setnetter Christine Brandt submitted a request asking the board to adjust the Kasilof setnet fishery so that when there are restrictions because of conservation concerns, setnetters can fish along the beach.
This year, Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers relied extensively on the Kasilof River Special Harvest Area as a tool to catch sockeyes while limiting the catch of Kenai River kings; Brandt is asking that setnetters also be allowed to fish within a half mile of shore when that occurs.
Brandt has also asked the board to consider changing the management plan to allow ADFG to manage the Kasilof and Kenai/East Forelands sections separately when fishing is restricted to no more than 12 or 36 hours. That was rejected as an emergency petition in March, but the threshold for an ACR, rather than an emergency petition, is slightly lower.
Chris Every, another setnetter, submitted a similar request, asking the board to change the management plan so that when fishing time is limited, fishing in one section doesn’t count against the time available in another section.
Every also submitted an ACR asking the board to consider allowing managers to restrict the mesh size in the setnet fishery when the Kasilof River sockeye goal is being met or exceeded. Every wrote that Kasilof sockeyes are small, and the fishery needs to target the fish that are the reason for the opener — and avoid catching others.
Another setnetter, Joseph Person, submitted an ACR asking for an adjustment to the gear restrictions so that fishermen can use four shorter nets rather than three 35-fathom nets, as long as the total length remained shorter than 105 meshes.
Every has also asked the board to remove one of the provisions added to the management plan last winter, which calls for limited August fishing timing when the Kenai River late-run king salmon escapement is likely to come in between 16,500 and 22,500 fish.
The drift fleet is also asking for a change, which would adjust how the one percent rule is calculated. Under the one percent rule, fishing ends when the sockeye harvest in consecutive periods is less than one percent of the total season harvest. The rule is intended to transition from sockeye management to coho management in August.
Fisherman Michael Hatten has requested a change to the calculation so that the fleet would have more of a chance to target other species, including pinks and chums. Fishermen this summer said they would have appreciated more opportunity to harvest pinks as the sockeye run ended, and the rule change would likely allow that in the future.
Not every change proposed relates to the management plans as adjusted this year.
Every asked the board to consider limiting the personal use fishery. Every’s proposal would create a tiered drawing for participants, and a 300,000 sockeye limit, as monitored by four check stations.
Every also submitted an ACR asking the board to allow setnetters with two permits to use them in different areas. Currently, a setnetter with two permits can only fish them in one area.
Sportfishermen aren’t asking for any changes right away.
Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Ricky Gease said that there are a couple errors in regulation the board might be able to adjust, but there was nothing major that needed to be revisited from his perspective.
“It’s the first year that the management plans were put in place, and overall, I think that the management plans worked as intended,” Gease said.
ADFG submitted one ACR to adjust fishing guide regulations to better match state law. That change would address the licensing and registration requirements for sport fishing guides so that they match what is in state statute. According to the ACR, not all of the current regulations are enforceable.
The other area changes include a smaller mesh for subsistence setnets in the Kuskokwim River during times of conservation, allowing driftnets to target chums on part of the Upper Yukon, and adjusting fishing boundaries in the Kuskokwim River and Bristol Bay’s Naknek-Kvichak District.
For Norton Sound, ADFG has asked the board to shorten the fishing season for the red king crab and hanasaki king crab through-the-ice fishery. A local fisherman, Adem Paul Boeckmann, also asked the board to develop a guideline harvest level for the winter fishery.
In the Bering Sea, crab proposals would enable the harvest of smaller male tanner crabs, extend the tanner crab season so that it can run through May 15 in a certain area, and allow more incidental harvest of tanner crabs in the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery. Those were all proposed by the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.