Action Alert Posted November 13

After a disastrous 2020 salmon season, the commercial salmon fishing industry in Cook Inlet is now facing an even greater threat to its long-term existence.

The State of Alaska is attempting to effectively close the commercial salmon fishery in Cook Inlet. We need all fishing businesses, fishing related businesses, families, crew and friends to submit comments to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC).

For the past three years the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has been working on three different alternatives, or types of management approaches, for the Cook Inlet salmon Fishery Management Plan (FMP). They will take final action on the FMP at their December meeting. Just last month, at a Council meeting, the ADFG Deputy Commissioner  introduced a new, fourth alternative. This Alternative 4 would simply close all federal waters (the “EEZ”) in Cook Inlet to commercial fishing. Federal water in Cook Inlet is the southern half of the Inlet, including almost everything south of Kalgin Island. This area is the most productive salmon fishing region in Cook Inlet. Closing this is not a management plan, it’s a disaster for the seafood industry in Cook Inlet. (The background and the four Alternatives can be read below.)

The Council is taking comments at their website. We need to flood them with comments opposing Alternative 4 and supporting a modified version of Alternative 2:

  • We want the NPFMC and NMFS to delegate authority to the State of AK to manage the Cook Inlet salmon fishery, but Alternative 2 as written, fails to address the entire fishery as both the Ninth Circuit Court and the District Court have ordered. Alternative 2 must also require that escapement goals for all stocks of salmon, management plans and in-season management practices meet the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) and the Ten National Standards.

This is the site for commenting:

https://meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/Details/1745       [Scroll down agenda to item C2;  you can also read other comments there for ideas.]

The deadline for public comments is November 27 at 5pm.

Background:

Following years of mismanagement of the salmon stocks in Cook Inlet by ADFG and the Board of Fisheries (BOF), UCIDA and CIFF filed a lawsuit requesting that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS),  the federal agency in charge of all anadromous fish species (including salmon), fulfill its federally mandated oversight role in managing all Cook Inlet salmon stocks. The lawsuit went to the Ninth Circuit court and then all the way to the US Supreme Court and UCIDA and CIFF won. The courts said that the NMFS must prepare a fishery management plan (FMP) for the entire Cook Inlet salmon fishery and then the agency could legally delegate authority to the State of Alaska for in-season management of the fishery.

As a result of that decision by the courts, the NMFS and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and stakeholders have spent 3 years trying to work out the details for an FMP that complies with the federal law and the court order. The Council is required to take final action on the new FMP in December of this year.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) is the primary federal law that governs marine fishery management and provides for optimal exploitation of coastal fishery resources. The MSA has been in existence for over forty years and is the “gold standard” in sustainable fishery management for the entire nation. The MSA requires, among others, that fishery resources be managed on the basis of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and that FMP’s be based on the best available science.

Meeting those requirements in the new court-ordered FMP will require the State of Alaska (ADFG and BOF) to make fundamental changes in the way they manage the Cook Inlet fishery. Rather than work to meet the requirements of federal law, the State has decided to take punitive action against the Cook Inlet commercial fishing industry and is now trying to close most of the area where the Cook Inlet fleet fishes.

At the last meeting of the Council, on October 12th, after all public testimony had been taken, the State of Alaska ADF&G Deputy Commissioner introduced a 4th Alternative for the Council to consider for the new FMP. Alternative 4 would close all federal waters in Cook Inlet to commercial fishing. Federal water in Cook Inlet is the southern half of the Inlet, including almost everything south of Kalgin Island.

If approved by the Council, Alternative 4 would essentially close the fishery. South of Kalgin Island is where most of the drift fleet harvest occurs and there is no way to make up for that lost harvest. This would force all Cook Inlet drift fishermen out of business and force the remaining processing plants to close. The consequences of that action are unfathomable, the commercial salmon fishery here has been the backbone of the economy for over a hundred years. Thousands of jobs in the communities of our Borough will be lost, the capital investment in the fishery and support businesses will be lost and other fisheries will also have to close when the processing companies leave the peninsula.

These are the 4 Alternatives that the NPFMC are considering and will choose one at the December meeting.

Alternative 1: No Action. No amendment to the Salmon FMP. This alternative would maintain status quo. Alternative 1 is not a viable alternative given the Ninth Circuit decision, however, NEPA requires that Federal agencies analyze a no action alternative.

Alternative 2: Federal management of the commercial fishery in the EEZ with specific management measures delegated to the State. Amend the Salmon FMP to include the Cook Inlet EEZ in the FMP’s fishery management unit in the West Area and establish a Federal management regime for these salmon fisheries that delegates specific management measures to the State of Alaska, to use existing State salmon management infrastructure, in compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and Ninth Circuit ruling. Alternative 2 would identify the management measures that would be managed by the Council and NMFS, the management measures that would be delegated to the State to manage with Federal oversight, and the process for delegation and oversight of management.

Alternative 3: Federal management of the commercial fishery in the EEZ. Amend the Salmon FMP to include the Cook Inlet EEZ in the FMP’s fishery management unit in the West Area and apply Federal management to those portions of the fishery that occurs in the EEZ.

Alternative 4: Federal management of the commercial fishery in the EEZ with the EEZ closed to commercial fishing. Amend the Salmon FMP to include the Cook Inlet EEZ in the FMP’s fishery management unit in the West Area and apply Federal management by extending the existing West Area prohibition on commercial salmon fishing in the EEZ to the Cook Inlet EEZ. [This is the alternative that the ADFG Deputy Commissioner on the Council introduced at the very last minute.]


43961 K-Beach Road, Suite E
Soldotna, Alaska
(907) 260-9436

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