The Alaska Board of Fisheries wrapped up its deliberations on Upper Cook Inlet Finfish this Tuesday, marking the end of a session filled with extensive public input and consideration of numerous proposals. A pivotal decision was reached through a closely contested vote, approving a management strategy for the late-run king salmon. This strategy involves a reduction in the escapement goal, potentially benefiting the East Side Set Net sockeye salmon industry.

The discussion gained momentum on Friday when Board Member from Anchorage, Märit Carlson-Van Dort, introduced a conservation initiative aiming to maintain the large king salmon’s escapement goal within the 15,000-30,000 range. She defined large king salmon as those exceeding 34 inches in length.

Carlson-Van Dort expressed that the driving force behind her proposal was the desire to achieve a sustainable recovery for the king salmon population. She underscored the principle of sustained yield, as emphasized in Article 8 of the Alaska Constitution, advocating for the continuous provision of stewardship to maintain renewable resources at optimal levels.

Highlighting the feedback from departmental reports and public testimonies, Carlson-Van Dort pointed out that a minimal escapement goal would not suffice for the species’ recuperation. She elaborated that her approach involves imposing restrictions across all user groups, including in-river sportfishers, set and drift gillnetters, and personal-use fishers, to meet the recovery objectives.

Given the concern over king salmon, a species at risk, regulations for sockeye fishing have been crafted with the incidental catch of king salmon in mind. Notably, the East Side Set Net fishery faced a closure prior to the commencement of the last season due to bleak forecasts for king salmon. Under Carlson-Van Dort’s strategy, an opening for set-net fishing would be conditional on pre-season projections exceeding 15,000 for large kings, though not mandatory.

She clarified that her proposal offers regulatory flexibility, emphasizing the discretionary power it grants. Additionally, her plan accommodates emergency measures for sport fishing, such as bait restrictions and an increased sockeye limit, while continuing to ban king salmon retention in the Kenai River and personal-use dipnet fisheries.

Throughout the discussions, the board considered Carlson-Van Dort’s proposal but introduced a significant adjustment to the king salmon escapement target. Gerad Godfrey, a board member from Eagle River, suggested reducing the minimum goal from 15,000 to 13,500, which was initially unsuccessful. However, a subsequent motion to set the threshold at 14,250 was approved by a narrow 4-3 vote. Godfrey explained that the revised goal aims to more fairly allocate conservation responsibilities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *