Board of Fisheries readies for annual work session

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will meet in Juneau Oct. 15 and 16 to discuss Southeast and Prince William Sound escapement goals and agenda change requests for the upcoming meeting cycle.

The board is meeting for its annual work session, where it hears preliminary reports on escapement goals for each of the regions it will discuss as part of its regular meeting cycle for 2014-15.

The Board of Fisheries sets the management plans for fisheries throughout the state on a three-year cycle. This year, the board will discuss Prince William Sound and Upper Copper/Upper Susitna finfish, Southeast and Yakutat crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish, Southeast and Yakutat finfish, and statewide Dungeness crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish.

The board will also discuss the locations of its 2016-17 meetings at the work session, including the locations for the lower and upper Cook Inlet finfish meetings. There has been a renewed push for the board to hold its Upper Cook Inlet meeting on the Kenai Peninsula rather than Anchorage as it has been for the past several cycles.

Escapement goals are the number of fish needed to return to a river system and spawn to produce future runs. At the October meeting, the board will hear reports on the Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska salmon goals. The agenda also includes an update on Cook Inlet escapement goals.

According to reports submitted to the board, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is not recommending any changes to the Prince William Sound goals, but is recommending seven of the 50 goals reviewed in Southeast Alaska be changed.

In Southeast, ADFG is recommending changes to the Klukshu (Alsek) River king and sockeye biological escapement goals, the Speel Lake sustainable escapement goal, or SEG, the Lost River coho SEG, the Southern Southeast summer-run chum SEG, the Northern Southeast Outside summer-run chum SEG and the Chilkat River fall chum goal.

According to the report from ADFG, the Klukshu/Alsek changes were already adopted by the Pacific Salmon Commission because it is a transboundary river subject to the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada.

No new stock of concern designations are recommended for either of those regions.

The Cook Inlet report does not list any proposed changes, but shows the escapement goals and recent escapements for king, sockeye, coho and chum stocks throughout the area. According to the report, it was requested by board chair Karl Johnstone.

Fisheries stakeholders have also submitted 27 agenda change requests, or ACRs, which ask the board to take up an issue outside of the regular three-year cycle.

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 at the 2014 meeting. The next regular Upper Cook Inlet meeting isn’t until 2017.

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.

If the board accepts any of the ACRs, they will 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.

The majority of the Cook Inlet changes 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 played out this summer, although one would also limit participation and harvest in the personal use fishery.

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.

11/23/2016 - 2:48pm