Fish Board Aligns SE/Treaty on Kings

By ANNA LAFFREY

Ketchikan Daily News

The Alaska Board of Fisheries on Friday decided to revise management for commercial troll and sport-caught Chinook salmon in Southeast Alaska  —

but voted 4-2 against requiring in-season management to keep sport fishery Chinook catch within the sport harvest limit.

The decision came after hearing hours of testimony this week regarding three unusual and controversial off-cycle proposals during a Lower Cook Inlet finfish regulatory meeting in Homer.

Board members on Friday voted 5-1 in favor of amended language for Proposal 257, which aligns the Southeast Alaska King Salmon Management Plan with new methodology that the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Commission set forth in the Pacific Salmon Treaty this year. Board Member Märit Carlson-Van Dort of Anchorage during the meeting last week submitted the successful amendment, RC 63, to the original proposal from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Also on Friday, the board voted 4-2 against Proposal 259, which addressed a fiery allocative dispute between commercial troll fishermen and resident/nonresident sport fishermen.

Trollers and sport fishermen for months have sparred over the intent of a Chinook salmon catch management agreement that the parties forged together during a board meeting for Southeast Alaska in 2022. Fish and Game staff and other state personnel implemented the agreement into state regulation.

However, when the state implemented the agreement in 2022, it dropped two words that would have required in-season management to keep the resident/nonresident sport fishery catch within the “sport fishery harvest ceiling” for Chinook.

The troll fishermen who submitted the proposal say that the state created a “language error” in state statute that goes against the terms

of the 2022 agreement “as far as allowing a no in-season management regime.”

David Richey and Monique Wilkinson wrote in Proposal 259 that the state’s error “incorrectly liberalizes the sport fishery king salmon

harvest” which “has caused the sport fishery to significantly exceed its (Chinook) allocation in 2023 with the potential to continue to do so in

the future.”

Under the existing Alaska statute 5 AAC 29.060 (allocation of king salmon in the Southeast Alaska-Yakutat area), the commercial net fisheries are allocated approximately 7% of the Chinook quota that the Pacific Salmon Commission approves each year.  The remaining quota is split 80/20  etween the troll and sport fisheries, respectively.

Given how the state implemented the 2022 sport/troll agreement under 5 AAC 47.005, managers with Fish and Game for two seasons haven’t managed the sport fishery in-season to its 20% allocation ceiling.

Rather, any catch underage or overage anticipated from the Southeast Alaska sport fishery is added to or subtracted from the commercial troll allocation of Chinook salmon so as to keep the total catch within the overall Chinook harvest ceiling.

For instance, this August the department projected that the sport fishery would exceed its 2023 preseason allocation by an estimated 15,000 Chinook and docked 15,000 Chinook from trollers’ allocation for their second summer Chinook opening. Managers estimate that sport fishers by the end of the season exceeded their Chinook allocation by 17,000 fish.

In 2022, neither the sport fishery nor commercial troll fishery caught their entire Chinook allocation; about 15,000 additional sport fishery Chinook were made available for trollers during August and September.

That 2022 regulation that allowed this catch-sharing will “sunset” in 2025, ahead of the next Board of Fisheries finfish meeting for Southeast Alaska set to take place in Ketchikan.

As the board began its deliberations regarding Proposal 259 on Friday, Board Chair John Wood of Willow advocated in favor of the proposal.

Wood stood by the source text of the sport/troll agreement that representatives for the Alaska Trollers Association, Southeast Alaska Guides Organization and Territorial Sportsmen Inc. signed during the board meeting in 2022.

He said that the state’s revision of the agreement language in the resulting state regulation “presents me a problem.”

“I’m old-school,” Wood said. “When you give me a deal, I make a deal, a deal is a deal. I’m not going to deviate from it. The deal that was reached had that (in-season sport fishery management) verbiage in it.”

Carlson-Van Dort spoke against Proposal 259 on Friday. The board has already approved her amendment RC 63 to the state proposal that fixes methodology in the King Salmon Management Plan.

Carlson-Van Dort said that requiring in-season management to a “sport fishery harvest ceiling” via Proposal 259 would be “essentially renegotiating this entire management plan. I don’t think that’s appropriate at this time.”

“I would rather see the management plan go for one year,” Carlson-Van Dort said. “They’ve already waited two years of this three-year piece to address the issue. I think it is much more appropriate to allow the management plan to play out for the third year.”

Board Member Tom Carpenter of Cordova voted against Proposal 259 and expressed frustration that the board’s action in 2022 allowed the dispute between trollers and sport fishers to take root.

Beginning his comments on Proposal 259 and the state’s alleged “language error,” Carpenter said that he thinks “this situation quite frankly stinks to high heaven.”

Although Carpenter did not serve on the board in 2022 when members approved the sport/troll agreement, he said that the board “made an error” by simply voting to approve the agreement without “much conversation from the board … specific to the intent.”

“I really feel when I look at the language and I look at those three signatures on the top of (the sport/troll agreement), I really think that all three people, or all three groups that signed that, believed something completely different,” Carpenter said. “That’s why we’re sitting here right now. It’s an unfortunate situation where it’s a very allocative thing where one group is going to be taking (Chinook catch) from another, at least for a short period of time. I’m not sure that we can rectify that right now.”

Board members John Wood and Mike Wood of Talkeetna voted in favor of Proposal 259, while four other members voted against. Board Member  Gerad Godfrey of Eagle River was absent during deliberations on all three proposals.

The board on Friday voted unanimously against troll fisherman Tad Fujioka’s Proposal 258, which would have affected similar changes to the King Salmon Management Plan as Proposal 257 while also requiring the  department to manage sport fishing in-season to keep catch below the “sport fishery harvest ceiling.”

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AK COVID-19

At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.

 

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20 YEARS AGO

March 2004

Photo caption: Fire engines and ambulances shine in the sun outside the new fire hall Saturday during an open house. Hundreds turned out to look over the $4 million facility, which is twice the size of the building it replaced. It features a state-of-the-art exhaust system and much larger offices and a large training room.


50 YEARS AGO

March 1974

The Sheldon Jackson Museum will have a special showing of replicas of ancient Tlingit hunting weapons. The replicas were made by A. P. Johnson, a Tlingit  culture instructor and metal arts teacher at SJC.

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