I’ve been discussing the upcoming Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) meeting for the last three weeks. I’ve touched on some of the negative proposals impacting our Northern District salmon runs and why it is important for you to make your comments known to the BOF opposing the bad and supporting the beneficial proposals, all of which will be acted upon. I’ve also mentioned how to submit written comments if you can’t attend personally.
If you are able to attend either part of or the entire meeting, here’s what you can expect to see and hear.
The opening day, Jan.31, will largely be taken up with the BOF chairman reading legal notices for the meeting and board members introducing themselves. Individual board members will give their ethics disclosures and hold any subsequent discussions of potential conflicts of a board member voting on a particular proposal. Other housekeeping chores and formalities like introducing ADF&G staff present for the meeting will be done.
Next, ADF&G will give several presentations on various aspects concerning the status of Cook Inlet finfish fisheries, including potential stock of concern (SOC) designations. This could become an interesting topic to listen to since our Northern District has one king salmon stock being nominated for the SOC rating and a second stock (Susitna-Yentna sockeye) being recommended to remain a SOC. We already have seven of the 11 SOC the BOF has designated statewide and will probably jump to eight of 12. There are also two coho stocks that ADF&G hasn’t nominated, but deserve discussion here since one (the Little Susitna) has missed escapement four of the last five years and Jim Creek has missed three out of the last five.
I would expect most of the day will be taken up hearing department and other agency reports and the discussion involving stocks of concern. Public testimony could begin later in the afternoon, but I wouldn’t expect very many will get to testify this first day. Sign up for testifying closes at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, Feb.1. Oral testimony will continue all day Saturday and Sunday with a likelihood of going into Monday morning as well. This meeting is normally heavily attended by commercial fishing interests, most that want to tell the board why they need to catch every available fish which swims in Cook Inlet in order to feed their families.
Since the bulk of public testimony will be occurring over the weekend, I would strongly encourage you to make your best effort to attend and be heard. The board will base their decisions largely on what they hear during this time. If it is all one-sided in favor of the commercial interests, several proposals that will negatively impact our northern fish could pass and many of the beneficial proposals, which would help rebuild our fish stocks could fail. You need to voice your concerns.
During your public testimony, if you wish to participate in the committee process, you should mention which specific committees you would like to be on. That list is contained in the tentative agenda for the meeting contained on the BOF meeting information website. The committee process occurs after public testimony is over. The board splits into either two working groups of three members each or the full board, called the committee of the whole, to flesh out information on specific groups of proposals. The process is similar to a town meeting format, but only new information can be submitted by the affected users selected to be committee members. The board heard your oral testimony and read your written comments — they don’t need to hear that information a second time.
After committee of the whole discussions, the board will go into deliberation of the discussed proposals. For the three-board-member committees, a committee report will be generated and presented to the full board later in the meeting. After the committee report presentation, the full board will deliberate on those proposals presented. Once the committee process is completed and the board has moved into deliberations, no further public testimony will be accepted. You can talk with individual board members on breaks and at other free moments, but formal testimony is over. The board will act based on information collected to that point.
I want to mention the Wasilla Gun Show beginning tomorrow and continuing Sunday at Wasilla High School.
This is the annual hockey booster club show, which I’ve attended since I moved to the valley 24 years ago. See you there!
Howard Delo is a retired fisheries biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. You can leave him a message by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.