Howard Delo

The Board of Fisheries 2018-2019 cycle organizational workshop is history. Things went pretty much as I expected them to, meaning there were no surprises concerning board business conducted at the meeting.

As I outlined in last week’s column, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s report to the board about upgrading sport fish regulations to make them easier to read and understand and more easily accessible to the public was presented. To develop the findings presented, ADF&G surveyed nearly 4,000 resident and non-resident sport anglers online, asking how well they understood and could access Alaska sport fishing regulations. The 308-page survey report, compiled and prepared by DJ Case and Associates, has seven specific recommendations to ADF&G addressing those concerns.

Those recommendations are: reduce and simplify regulations; build a smartphone app; lower the burden of interpretation; continue to improve the regulations booklets and ADF&G website; support indirect forms of communication; rephrase regulations; and significantly rewrite news releases for Emergency Orders.

More inside

The report was well received by board members.

When the agenda change requests section came up, a couple of board members asked that ACRs 1 and 2 be delayed until after the ADF&G hatchery report was presented. Both of these ACRs dealt with restricting increases in hatchery egg take increases for pink salmon. The remaining ACRs then came under discussion.

None of the three out-of-cycle Cook Inlet ACRs before the board were accepted, based on the criteria the board uses when considering whether to accept an out-of-cycle request.

These criteria are: for a fishery conservation purpose or reason; to correct an error in regulation; or to correct an effect on a fishery that was unforeseen when a regulation was adopted. If the board decides that any of the ACRs fulfill at least one of the above criteria, then they can vote to accept the ACR and schedule it for an upcoming meeting.

In my opinion, the merits of the ACRs all warrant a review and discussion by the BOF, but this discussion should occur in-cycle during the Upper Cook Inlet BOF meeting and the ACRs should all be submitted as proposals to allow adequate public review and comment.

ACRs accepted out-of-cycle often don’t allow all the stakeholders potentially affected by the proposal adequate time to consider the proposals and the ability to make a timely response for board consideration. A couple of other ACRs were accepted because of potential conservation concerns, however, none of them relate to Cook Inlet fisheries.

The next major item was the ADF&G hatchery report. This presentation lasted probably four hours and went into minute detail about ocean ecosystems, pink salmon lifecycles and how they relate to the ocean environment and many other facets related to pink salmon. I must admit, I wasn’t totally awake through the whole presentation.

The whole hatchery kerfuffle currently ongoing boils down to this: are there too many pink salmon being released into the Pacific Ocean such that the wild stocks of all five Pacific salmon are being impacted? My take away after hearing most of the four-hour presentation was this: they don’t really know!

Studies are ongoing to try to shed some light on the topic, but nobody really knows. In the public forum held after the report, the overwhelming majority of folks present didn’t want to see the BOF restrict or reduce current numbers of pink salmon being produced in Alaskan hatcheries, even for a few short years while ongoing ADF&G studies are happening.

There was a lot of discussion of the “precautionary principle” whereby, when little or no information is known about human actions on a fisheries resource, a prudent person would proceed cautiously in expanding factors which might have a detrimental impact. While those present all say the resource comes first, the fact that most folks stood against capping hatchery pink salmon production tells me they don’t care about potential detrimental impacts on wild stocks of salmon. Money comes first!

I saw this two-faced attitude all during my time on the BOF regarding fisheries management issues. I see the same attitude in the whole Ballet Initiative 1 fish habitat discussion. Everything is about the almighty dollar!

Salmon populations have been lost all over the world for insufficient habitat regulation in the face of society growing and developing. Alaska is now the last bastion of wild salmon in the world. Do we really want to risk that permanent loss for a short-term dollar from more pink salmon hatchery production and lax, politically influenced habitat development regulations? I hope not!

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