All the folks from the Valley who made an effort to either submit written comments or attend the Board of Fisheries meeting made an impact! On Tuesday, the BOF passed proposal 133, which reestablishes restrictions on the drift fleet concerning fishing in the Conservation Corridor running up the center of Cook Inlet. This area is where most of the northern-bound salmon travel as they make their way back to their natal streams. The proposal passed 6 to 1, with John Jensen being the lone negative vote.
The proposal also extended the July restrictions contained in the drift management plan beyond the July 31 end date currently contained in regulation through August 15. These two pieces of the proposal added to the drift management plan should assure significantly more sockeye and Coho salmon are passed through the Central District commercial fishery and into the Northern District.
Understandably, these changes upset the drift fishermen because they see this as a major loss in the numbers of fish they would have harvested and sold. As a result, they mounted an attempt to reconsider the BOF vote on proposal 133 on Wednesday, with the hope of overturning the proposal acceptance vote.
Under BOF operating procedures, only a board member who voted for the proposal originally can introduce a motion to reconsider based on new information. This must be done within 24 hours of the original proposal vote. The board then deliberates whether the “new” information is, in fact, new and votes on that point. If the information is considered new, the board then discusses how this information affects the voting on the proposal and decides whether to accept or reject the proposal based on this new information.
Fritz Johnson, from Dillingham, made the motion to reconsider and Jensen seconded it. The information Johnson presented as new was laid out and member John Wood clearly stated if the board wanted to accept the standard of the information presented as new, then the board would have to revisit every proposal acted on, to date. Member Israel Payton then stated that the information was not new and just because it wasn’t discussed in deliberations didn’t make it new.
Payton said any board member, at any time prior to deliberation, could have asked Fish and Game about the alleged “new information.” The motion to accept new information regarding proposal 133 was voted down: 2 to 5. Proposal 133 was safe and will now be written into the regulations.
Also, on Tuesday, the board took up, in committee, a discussion of whether to delist the Susitna/Yentna sockeye salmon as a Stock of Yield Concern. Many people expressed uneasiness at taking this action, but with ADF&G comment on increasing trends in the numbers of sockeye and Coho salmon returning to the Susitna and assurance that no changes in regulation in the management of this stock would occur, the board voted to delist the stock. The passage of proposal 133 a while later further eased folks’ concerns.
On Tuesday, the board took up discussion of further increasing inriver goal ranges for late-run sockeye in the Kenai River. The proposal was submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. The proposal was amended to reflect somewhat lower numbers than requested and passed. While KRSA didn’t get the hoped-for increases, they did see the numbers increased.
On Wednesday, committee discussion took place regarding proposals concerning the “one percent rule”. This rule designation is designed to provide an orderly closure to the commercial sockeye fishery as numbers of returning fish decline and incidental catch numbers of Coho salmon start to rise, transitioning to a commercial Coho season.
Another important slate of proposals heard in committee concerned establishing a personal use dipnet fishery in the lower Susitna River. Dates, location, species allowed for harvest, and other factors were discussed. Delisting of the Susitna/Yentna sockeye stocks and the passage of proposal 133 to put more fish in the Susitna drainage were critical to proposing a new personal use fishery in the Northern District. Final board actions on these two items will occur during deliberations on Thursday.
Board committee work and final action deliberations remains for the king salmon management plan proposals submitted by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission.
I, personally, had submitted a proposal asking the board to develop a definition of the word “minimize” as it is used in multiple Cook Inlet management plans to give specific guidance to ADF&G in how to manage various salmon species regarding commercial, sport, personal use, and subsistence fisheries.