I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Alaska Board of Fisheries for its dedication during the Upper Cook Inlet management hearings.
Two issues drove most of this year’s meeting. The first included changes to commercial setnet and Kenai River sport fisheries management that will help preserve Kenai king salmon. Another included managing the Upper Cook Inlet commercial drift gillnet fishery so enough salmon pass through to Mat-Su streams and rivers.
The Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan as amended and adopted is neither a victory for the sport fishery nor a defeat for the eastside setnet fishery, but is a clear victory for the conservation of king salmon.
Revisions to the king plan put into regulation management measures taken by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in 2013 to ensure the minimum Kenai late-run king escapement goal was achieved. The new king salmon management plan actually includes more latitude and time to fish setnets than was available in 2013.
The BOF unanimously approved changes to the Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan. The overall effect concentrates commercial harvest on surplus sockeye salmon bound for the Kasilof and Kenai rivers, move sockeye and coho to the Mat-Su, and increase in-river abundance of coho in all northern rivers and streams.
There can be no mistake — balancing competing demands in the fully allocated, fully utilized, mixed stock fisheries of Upper Cook Inlet is a difficult and often thankless task. Somebody will always come out of this process feeling the BOF erred in not seeing the world correctly. This board worked extremely hard, took its responsibility seriously and confronted these challenges fairly. Everyone involved in the process and these fisheries owes them our sincere thanks for a hard job well done.
Mark Hamilton, board chair
Kenai River Sportfishing Association