The Alaska Board of Fisheries wrapped up its meeting last week on Lower Cook Inlet issues with a change in boundaries for the Port Dick salmon seine fishery, a couple of tweaks to the groundfish fishery and an awareness-raising discussion about the state’s response to federal plans to privatize the pollock fishery.
The Port Dick proposal, made by the Cook Inlet Seiner’s Association, changes the boundaries from a straight line drawn down the middle of the West Arm to three distinct sub-districts that allow for more precise individual management of the three drainages that make up the fishery, which is especially important since they have different run timing.
It also allows for a more orderly and legal fishery, according to comments submitted by Homer fisherman Beaver Nelson.
He wrote that the current line does not allow for any reference points on shore, making it difficult to know whether the boat is inside the line.
Most of the fishing is done from open jitneys without GPS.
“By creating three sub-sections with boundaries running north and south rather than one east-west line, ...the boundary lines would be less than one mile long and easily referenced by shoreline features,” he wrote.
Other areas also were defined by lat/long lines instead of physical markers on shore in part because of a shortage of funding to maintain the markers.
Funding for marker upkeep was eliminated in the late 1990’s, and the current condition of the markers is not known, but the ones still in place will likely be left there.
An emergency petition that would have created a new category of “stock of concern” for habitat, made by United Cook Inlet Drift Association, did not get taken up, but UCIDA executive director Roland Maw said the point was more to get the material in front of the board so that they will have time to think about it before the Upper Cook Inlet meetings in February.
“Whether they took it up or not, we were trying to get some of the information about escapements up in the Valley in front of the board,” Maw said. “It accomplished our goal of raising this issue so that when they take it up in February they’ll have some familiarity with it.”
Maw said that the critical part of the proposal is the action plan.
“In the past when they’ve done this action plan, they chose to address it as a harvest issue. I think the point we’re going to make at the February meeting is ‘look, you’ve tried the harvest side of this equation for six years. No matter how much you restrict the drift fleet it’s not going to fix one of those culverts that’s blocking thousands of salmon from getting into those bed water streams.’”
A recent survey by ADF&G in the Mat-Su Valley found that nearly three-quarters of the 688 culverts in the area are inadequate for salmon passage, although the state and Mat-Su Borough government are funding culvert work.
Maw suggests being specific this time, getting rid of the broad generalities.
“Let’s put those culverts as one of the things the department has to work on, let’s put pike in there, let’s put (parasites) in there, let’s put beaver dams in there, and let’s talk about sport fishery harvest right at the mouth of some of these lakes where we’re monitoring escapement,” he said.
Maw added that the setnetters have also made a formal request to have a habitat assessment done on the Kenai River from Kenai Lake to the mouth, as well as some of the tributaries.
With regard to groundfish, the board clarified regulations for cod pot storage, making it more clear that pots needed to have bait removed and doors tied open, and slightly extended the time allowed to offload after the season closure.
A groundfish proposal that got debated but not voted on was one to carve out 25 percent of the federal quota for most of the commercially viable groundfish such as Pacific cod, pollock, arrowtooth flounder, sole and other flatfish for a state-waters trawl and seine fishery for boats 58 feet and under.
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council is working toward a catch share program that would largely leave that fleet out of those fisheries in federal waters.
ADF&G is neutral on the allocative aspect of the proposal, but opposes the use of trawl gear in state waters due to bycatch.
They also said they would need extra funding to execute the fishery.
Another worrisome problem was the lack of a pollock stock assessment program in state waters.
When the proposal was discussed in committee prior to the board action part of the meeting, they were unable to reach a consensus, but did decide it needed more deliberation.
It will be taken up again at the Kodiak meetings in January.
A full summary of proposals and board actions as well as audio of the meeting can be found at www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.main.
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has released the groundfish quotas for the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, and it is a mixed bag.
The pollock quota in the Gulf is taking a giant leap, up nearly 45 percent at 174,996 tons, and Pacific ocean perch is rising 17.7 percent to 19,309 tons. Pacific cod is rising slightly, 6.8 percent, to 64,738 tons.
Sablefish is the only quota going down, dropping 15.5 percent, to 10,572 tons.
In the BS/AI region, pollock is rising slightly to 1,267,000 tons, up 1.6 percent. Atka mackerel is the only quota seeing a substantial increase, up 24.7 percent to 32,322 tons.
All other quotas are falling there: Pacific cod is down 2.3 percent at 235,894 tons, yellowfin sole is down 7.1 percent at 184,000 tons, Pacific Ocean perch is down 5.6 percent at33,122 tons, and sablefish is down 15.3 percent at 3,150 tons.
The rise in Pacific cod quota comes as a surprise to the local cod fleet, which is reporting unusually small fish and slow fishing.
Kodiak is reporting similar problems.
The $.30 price is keeping many boats at the dock, as well.
Cristy Fry has commercial fished out of Homer and King Cove since 1978. She can be reached at email@example.com.