The Alaska Board of Fisheries members in charge of filling seats on a task force to recommend adjustments to the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan have announced their choices.
Task force co-chairs Vince Webster and Tom Kluberton have picked setnetters Jim Butler III, Ken Coleman and Robert Williams; drifter Ian Pitzman; sport fishermen Kevin Delaney and Dwight Kramer; sport guide Andy Szczesny; personal use fisherman Dennis Gease; and marine recreation user Luther Anderson.
Disastrously low king salmon numbers on the Kenai River forced the closure of the east side setnet fishery this season and eventually closed the sport fishery to even catch-and-release.
Comment boards have singled out Kevin Delaney as a questionable choice because of his position as a paid consultant to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and also his Colorado residency, when paid consultants to the commercial fishing industry such as Roland Maw, executive director of United Cook Inlet Drift Association, were passed over.
There did not appear to be any requirement that task force members be Alaska residents.
Others call Delaney highly qualified, saying he worked as a biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for 25 years before retiring in 2000, 15 of those years heading up the Sportfish Division.
Homer fisherman Ian Pitzman, the lone drift fisherman on the task force, said he did not have an opinion about Delaney, but his hope was that no one came to the job with an agenda.
“I just hope this becomes more about the fish than an allocative battle,” he said. “We need to get back to the science.”
A tentative schedule for the task force’s meetings has been set, with the first one taking place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture building on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Kenai.
The other three meetings will take place at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai, and are expected to be on Dec. 14, Jan. 14 and Feb. 14.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission is making changes ahead of the interim meeting, scheduled for Nov. 28 and 29 in Seattle, to afford interested parties the ability to listen in on and participate in more of the deliberations.
In the past, only the initial staff presentations with the recommended catch limits were available in webcasts. This year all sessions will be webcast and open to the public, except for the finance and administration session taking place at the end of the second day.
Another major change is that the public will be able to ask questions of the the presenters and/or commissioners during the sessions.
More time has been added to the schedule to accommodate these changes.
The commission developed these changes in response to recommendations from the 2012 Performance Review and using input from stakeholders across the halibut community.
They are designed to improve the workings of the commission by making its meetings and deliberations more open and transparent to the public.
The new meeting formats also will be used for the 2013 annual meeting, which takes place Jan. 21-25 in Victoria, B.C., after which they will be re-evaluated with stakeholder input to make further improvements for the next meeting cycle.
The IPHC staff harvest advice also is being restructured to present more information and more options for consideration by commissioners as they set the annual catch limits.
This change is in response to commission direction at the 2012 annual meeting, reinforced by the performance review and stakeholder feedback.
Although this restructured advice format is new to the IPHC, it is becoming common practice in world fishery management. This procedural approach provides a more transparent delineation between scientific results and management/policy decisions, ultimately enabling a better understanding of the risks associated with different fishery harvest options.
In the past, IPHC staff harvest advice centered on point biomass estimates and catch limit recommendations with single numbers for each. This format does not adequately convey the uncertainties around stock estimates and the risks of various possible outcomes at different catch levels. This year, the IPHC staff harvest advice will be summarized in a table which integrates uncertainty surrounding the stock assessment as it relates outcomes to estimates of risk.
The new format will give the commissioners a wider range of advice to consider as they set catch limits for 2013. For example, different catch levels (outcomes) can be evaluated and presented in terms of their impact (risk) on the stock and harvest rates. The commissioners will be able to examine a range of harvest options and the probable impacts on the stock as they deliberate.
More information about the meetings including reduced hotel rates for attendees can be found at www.iphc.int/home.html.
Relatively few proposals for regulatory changes have been submitted to the IPHC this year, but one seeks to make the circle hook a requirement for both the commercial and sport fleets.
Submitted by Ronn Buschmann of Petersburg, the proposal notes that halibut often swallow the older-style “J” hooks, making it impossible to release the fish unharmed, and that treble hooks sometimes used by sport fishermen frequently end up in the gills, also killing the fish.
Buschmann posits that a size slot for the charter fleet in Southeast Alaska and the increased population of fish under 32 inches everywhere is causing more fish to be handled and released, leading to increased mortality of fish caught with “J” or treble hooks.
His proposal would allow use of “soft” circle hooks used in automatic baiting machines and allow for traditional Native American hooks in the personal use and subsistence fisheries.
Cristy Fry has commercial fished in Homer since 1978. She also designs and builds gear for the industry. She currently longlines for halibut and gillnets salmon in upper Cook Inlet aboard the F/V Realist. She can be reached at email@example.com.