Daily Sitka Sentinel

Board Nears End of Finfish Deliberations

    Thursday was a relatively quiet day for the Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting in Ketchikan.
    The board committee working on sport, subsistence and personal-use fishery proposals completed its meetings Thursday morning, concluding the work of the board’s four small committees.
    Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff members worked throughout Thursday to complete the reports that summarize the committees’ work on the 95 proposals remaining on board’s agenda.
    Included in the committee summary reports will be suggested proposal language changes developed by fishery gear and user groups, some of which represent compromise positions by competing interests for specific fish resources.
    The board meeting was to resume at 9 a.m. today, with the remaining 26 herring and groundfish proposals first on the agenda.
    West Behm Canal Herring
    The West Behm Canal commercial herring sac roe fishery is the subject of three proposals that will be deliberated early on.
    Two of the West Behm Canal proposals (228 and 229) request changing the allowable mesh size of the gillnets used for the herring sac roe fishery, from the current minimum mesh size of 2.25 inches to a range of not less than 2.125 inches or more than 2.5 inches, which is the state standard for other gillnet herring fisheries in Southeast Alaska. The third proposal (227) would clarify a rule related to the commercial purse seine fishery for sac roe herring.
    The other two proposals, 243 and 244, ask the board to change the West Behm Canal herring sac roe fishery from a rotational fishery to a gillnet-only fishery. At present, the gillnet and purse seine herring sac roe fleets rotate participation in the fishery every other year the fishery is opened by the department.
    For example, the gillnet herring fleet fished during the 2011 opening. The seine gillnet fleet will fish if the fishery is opened this year.
    Earlier at this meeting, the board voted down Proposal 242, which would have raised the mature herring biomass threshold required to open the West Behm Canal commercial herring sac roe fishery from 6,000 tons to 15,000 tons.
West Behm Canal Troll
    Three proposals related to the commercial troll harvest of hatchery –produced coho in West Behm Canal are on the agenda.
    The Southern Southeast Alaska Regional Aquaculture Association, which releases coho salmon at Neets Bay, has submitted Proposal 315 to request that the commercial troll area in West Behm Canal outside of the Neets Bay Terminal Harvest Area be expanded.
    SSRAA also requests that trollers can fish in that area until Sept. 30 by regulation. The area now closes Sept. 20, although Fish and Game can open the area by emergency order after Sept. 20 in years of high abundance of wild-stock coho salmon.
    Fish and Game has submitted Proposal 316 to request that the Board of Fisheries to approve the same expanded trolling area requested by SSRAA in West Behm Canal. The department’s proposal does not include the time-extension component, as Fish and Game prefers the flexibility to leave the area closed after Sept. 20 in years of lower wild coho abundance.
    Proposal 317 was submitted by the Alaska Trollers Association to request the opening of the full area of West Behm Canal between Nose Point and Indian Point to commercial trolling until at least Sept. 30.
City Park
    One of the more unusual fishing spots under discussion is Ketchikan’s own City Park. Its ponds are stocked with trout and other species by the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery each summer for the annual kid’s fishing derby. The ponds remain open to fishing for 30 days to allow fishing during the event and a period of time afterward to catch the remaining fish.
    The department submitted Proposal 262  to extend the fishing opportunity in City Park through Aug. 31.
Klawock-area Proposals
    Six of the proposals involve the Klawock River or Klawock area on Prince of Wales Island.
    Two proposals address the state regulation that allows the department to allow by emergency order the use of bait below the Klawock River hatchery weir during the coho season. The target is hatchery-produced coho.
    Proposal 263 would prohibit the use of bait, while Proposal 264 would set the use of bait in the Klawock River during coho season in regulation, rather than having the department allow the use of bait by emergency order.
    Proposal 265 seeks to end the bag and possession limit for hatchery-produced steelhead trout in Klawock River, as no hatchery-produced steelhead now are released in the river.
    Another proposal, 266, would clarify that the Klawock Harbor area is closed to snagging “south of a line from the Klawock blinker light to the Klawock oil dock,” according to the proposal.
    Proposal 275 would remove the 35-horsepower maximum limit on boats operating in the Klawock subsistence area, although the intent of the proposer, Mike Douville, is that seine skiffs still would be prohibited in the area.
    The other Klawock-related request is Proposal 276, which would open the Klawock subsistence fishery for sockeye salmon seven days a week from July 7 to Aug. 7. The fishery now opens five days a week — 8 a.m. Monday to 5 p.m. Friday — during that same calendar period.
    Among the others
    Several of the remaining proposals focus on the terminal and special harvest areas for hatchery-produced salmon.
    SSRAA’s Proposal 338, for example, requests an expansion of the Kendrick Bay Terminal Harvest Area for chum salmon to include McLean Arm.
    The hatchery association’s proposal states that the existing Kendrick Bay THA is too small to accommodate a fishery effectively, and isn’t a good area for its net pens in inclement weather.
    Also yet to be deliberated in Proposal 269 submitted by Clay Bezenek of Ketchikan. The proposal seeks the development of a “catch report card system” for the sport, personal-use and subsistence fisheries.
Reconsideration?
    The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe has submitted a resolution requesting the board to revisit a controversial decision made Tuesday regarding the Tsiu River west of Yakutat.
    In the closest vote yet during this meeting, board members voted 4-3 to change the boundary for commercial set gillnet fishing for coho salmon on the Tsiu River, which also has a sport fishery for the same stocks.
    The decision followed a lengthy deliberation, which itself came after brisk public testimony for and against Proposal 301, which had been submitted by the sport-oriented Tsiu River Coalition to create a “500-yard corridor” at the mouth of the river for sport fishing. Board members Johnstone, Bill Brown, Tom Kluberton and Mike Smith voted to support an amended version of the proposal. Board members Vince Webster, John Jensen and Sue Jeffrey voted against it.
    The tribe’s request says its members rely on the commercial fishery, and that the decision made on Proposal 301 reduced the area available for the commercial fishery from 2.7 miles to 1.5 miles. In addition, the tribe states that more than 50 percent of the 2011 commercial catch was harvested in the area closed by the Proposal 301 decision.

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