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Board of Fish News

Board of Fish adds 1 district-wide opener for drifters

A commercial drift gillnetting boat leaves the mouth of the Kasilof River at about 1 a.m. July 17, 2014 during an overnight fishing period in Kasilof, Alaska. (Clarion file photo)

Upper Cook Inlet’s drift gillnet fleet will get another 12 hours of fishing time in July, but no one is 100 percent happy about it.

For one, the drifters feel like it wasn’t enough. The Board of Fisheries approved an amended proposal at its Thursday meeting that states the commercial fishing managers may open up one fishing period between July 16 and July 31 in the Central District, where before they were restricted to only part of the district. Since they have been restricted to fishing in the corridors, which parallel the shore and keep the fishermen from being able to traverse the entire inlet, they say they haven’t been able to efficiently harvest sockeye salmon, leading to overescapement into the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.

“It’s token,” said Erik Huebsch, vice president of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association.

Many sportfishermen feel like the board is chipping away at the commercial fishing restrictions too much, reallocating Cook Inlet’s highly contested salmon populations to the commercial fishing fleet. Chief among the complaints is concern for the Matanuska-Susitna Valley’s coho salmon, which have been on the decline for at least the past decade. Sportfishermen in the valley say the drifters are blocking too many salmon from moving up into the northern streams, corking off the salmon populations and furthering the decline.

In the back of the room Thursday, sportfishermen shook their heads as the measure passed. Mike Crawford, chair of the Kenai/Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee, said the board’s decisions so far this meeting have not been good for sportfishermen.

The blame game washed back and forth on Wednesday, with Mat-Su Valley fishermen and officials blaming the sockeye and coho stock declines on the drift fishermen and the drift fishermen blaming the stock declines on conditions in the valley. The discussion was notably civil compared to previous years, but the disagreements were sharp.

It’s a long-standing conflict. In 2008, when Susitna sockeye salmon were designated a stock of concern, it triggered restrictions on the drift fleet intended to prevent harvest of northern-bound sockeye and coho salmon as they passed through the Cook Inlet. Although drift fishermen have never denied that they harvest northern-bound sockeye and coho, they say the decline is because of poor production due to shallow lakes in the valley, widespread predation by invasive northern pike and pathogens in the water that affect salmon.

Read the rest of the article here.

ADFG Issues 2017 Sockeye Salmon Forecast

ADFG predicts lowest sockeye salmon harvest in 15 years

Read the rest of the article here.

ASMI releases new economic study

Alaska Seafood Industry Pumps $14.6 billion a Year into US Economy

SEAFOODNEWS.COM By Peggy Parker – January 20, 2016

A new study commissioned by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute found that economic impacts of the commercial fishing industry in Alaska to the rest of the nation reached $14.6 billion in recent years.

Those impacts include $6.2 billion in direct output associated with fishing, processing, distribution, and retail. There were $8.4 billion in multiplier effects generated as industry income circulates throughout the U.S. economy.

Alaska’s seafood industry adds $5.9 billion annually to the state’s economy, including employment of 60,000 workers and labor income of $1.6 billion, based on 2013 and 2014 averages.

“The Economic Value of Alaska’s Seafood Industry”, released yesterday, updates an earlier McDowell Group study from 2013, which looked at the industry’s performance in 2011.

That year, commercial fishermen landed over 5.5 billion pounds worth an ex-vessel value of $2.16 billion, making it the most valuable single-season harvest on record. Direct economic output to the U.S. (not including multiplier effects) was $6.4 billion, compared to $6.2 billion today.

On average, seafood harvests in Alaska have increased to 5.7 billion pounds annually, worth $1.94 billion.

The report, which looks at performance over 2013-14, points out that Alaska’s seafood industry is unique because it “more than other industries, provides employment and income opportunities for urban and rural residents alike.”

The businesses and individuals in Alaska’s seafood industry contribute roughly $138.6 million in taxes, fees, and self-assessments, which help fund state, local, and federal government.

The report considers only the commercial seafood industry and does not address economic impacts stemming from recreational, charter, or subsistence uses of Alaska’s seafood resources.

Seafood accounts for about 20 percent of Alaska’s basic private sector economy, with oil and gas providing just over 50 percent. Including multiplier effects, the seafood industry accounts for $2.1 billion in total labor income and $5.9 billion in total economic activity in Alaska.


Read the full report here.

KTVA News in Anchorage continues coverage of so-called Kenai Fish Wars

KTVA’s Rhonda McBride on “Frontiers”:

The Alaska Supreme Court recently threw out a setnet ban initiative. So, what’s next for the long running fish fight in Kenai? In this web extra, Andrew Jensen who is editor of the Alaska Journal of Commerce, will analyze the decision and talk about the implications for fisheries across Alaska.

Watch the interview here.

Alaska Journal of Commerce EDITORIAL: Time for Penney to drop vendetta against setnetters

Bob Penney is now 0 for 2 at the Alaska Supreme Court in his efforts to reallocate Cook Inlet salmon stocks at the ballot box, but he’s not giving up the fight against commercial fishermen.

It’s past time that he did after some three decades of dividing the community with his nonstop efforts to drive his neighbors out of business and turn the Kenai River into his personal playpen.

After the court emphatically rejected his ballot initiative that would ban setnetting from Cook Inlet beaches on Dec. 31, Penney released a statement that, “Maybe it’s time the federal government looked into this issue.”

Later, Clark Penney, the executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance started by his grandfather to push the initiative back in November 2013, said the group is looking into pursuing an Endangered Species Act listing for Kenai River king salmon.

Anyone can petition for such a listing, but AFCA will have no better luck with the ESA than it had at the Alaska Supreme Court.

Abundance of the late run of Kenai River kings is no doubt at a low point, but the stock has never failed to meet its escapement goal and in fact returned in strong enough numbers to allow all user groups more liberal harvest opportunity in 2015.

The early run of Kenai River kings, on the other hand, has failed repeatedly in recent years to meet minimum escapement goals and was closed to all sportfishing in the past two years.

Notice it hasn’t been closed to commercial fishing. That’s because commercial fishermen haven’t been in the water during the early run for decades as the stock abundance cratered under heavy pressure from the guided angler industry.

That’s something Penney and his like-minded friends don’t ever talk about because they can’t blame it on commercial fishing.

Oh, but they can spin a fish tale, though, and never was Penney’s win-at-all-costs mentality more evident than last legislative session when his advocacy outfit led a misleading smear campaign against a well-respected member of the Kenai Peninsula community who’d been nominated to the Board of Fisheries.

The successful effort by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association to defeat Soldotna habitat advocate Robert Ruffner by a single vote based on a made-up criteria about not living in Anchorage and a ridiculous accusation that he was some kind of Manchurian candidate of the commercial fishing industry was the last straw for many in the community who saw his candidacy as an opportunity to break up what had become a polarized board dominated by factions instead of facts.

Read the rest of the editorial here.

Analysis of State Revenue from Fisheries; Upper Cook Inlet, 2014

In December UCIDA published this report on options for increasing revenue returns on UCI salmon through various tax and permit changes and better utilizing surplus salmon stocks. It is a retrospective analysis based on data from the 2014 salmon season.

1. Introduction
The reality of the economic circumstances facing Alaska requires more than a cursory review of direct revenues generated by one of Alaska’s greatest natural and renewable resources – Alaskan seafood. The Alaska commercial seafood industry is the State’s second largest industry, the largest employer and a major generator of State tax revenue. Alaska’s fishery resources have the potential to provide an even greater benefit to the State treasury. This analysis uses the 2014 Upper Cook Inlet (UCI) salmon fishery to demonstrate additional revenue options and why a comprehensive review of State fishery economics is needed. Results and conclusions from this review provide examples of the types of returns we could expect from other fisheries State-wide.

The greatest value to the State from its’ fishery resources will not be realized until the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) and the Board of Fisheries (BOF) incorporate a business model approach to every management policy and plan. Fisheries management needs to be focused on fully utilizing these renewable resources with the understanding that allocation and daily management decisions have direct economic consequences to the welfare of the State. Taxes, licenses and permit fees should be adjusted so that all resource users share in the necessary cost of management.

To illustrate these concepts, this analysis examines the results of changing taxation revenue, license fees and monetizing unharvested surplus salmon. A retrospective analysis based on the fully documented 2014 UCI salmon fishery was chosen over projecting into an uncertain future. The 2014 UCI salmon fishery is the latest year for which harvest data is complete. This retrospective analysis will provide the reader an estimate of State revenues resulting from applying a series of revenue options to the 2014 UCI salmon fisheries. There are several options for additional revenue under consideration. First, a review of unharvested salmon stocks, monetizing the economic value they represent and increasing the commercial fishery business tax to 4%; second, increasing the sport fishing license by $5 for resident and $10 for non-resident anglers; third, implementing a new $30 fee for each original dipnet permit.

In this analysis, the effects on direct State tax and license revenue from UCI salmon fisheries would be:

 Harvesting surplus salmon for an additional $1,505,000 at the current tax rate;
 Applying a 1% increase to the Commercial Fishery Business Tax Rate for an additional $350,000 in commercial revenue and $1,715,000 in revenue from the unharvested salmon, totaling $2,065,000 in new revenues;
 Applying a $5 resident and a $10 non-resident sport fishing license fee increase for $900,000 in new revenue;
 Applying a $30.00 fee to the original personal use permit for $900,000 in new revenue.
Total of potential new tax and license revenue is $3,865,000 for UCI salmon.

Read the rest of the report here: Analysis of State Revenue from UCI Salmon Fisheries

A brief history of Susitna salmon

Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman

Posted: Saturday, February 28, 2015 8:42 pm

A brief history of Susitna salmon management begins when the first escapement goal was set for Susitna sockeye in 1979.

A Bendix sonar counter was placed into service about that time to measure the escapement. In the late 1980s, the goal was revised based on a study of 24 sockeye-producing lakes in the Susitna drainage.

The purpose of an escapement goal is to ensure sustainability and maximize yield (harvest). State policy requires that escapements goals must be scientifically defensible.

For over 25 years there was a perception that the sockeye returning to the Susitna River were not meeting the escapement goals. This was driven by the assumption that the Bendix sonar counter was accurately counting the sockeye escapements. The perception led to numerous time and area restrictions on the Central District drift fleet and Northern District setnets.

The escapement counts in the Susitna were periodically called into question, particularly after the 1989 season when the Exxon Valdez oil spill caused drift gillnetting to be closed in Cook Inlet. The closure resulted in a large over-escapement in the Kenai River but had no apparent effect on the Susitna escapement sonar count. Increasing uncertainty with the Susitna escapement assessment prompted ADF&G to initiate a 3-year study in 2006. The study utilized a DIDSON system, weir counts and a mark-recapture program to compare with the Bendix sonar counts.

In 2009 ADF&G released a special report because the study determined that the errors with the sonar counts were so significant. (ADF&G, FMS 09-01) The report documented that both the Bendix and DIDSON were grossly underestimating the number of sockeye salmon returning to the Susitna system.

The study results indicated that the Bendix sonar count (dating back to 1981) was biased low by more than 100 percent. From 1981 through 2008 escapement goals were being exceeded by an average of more than 100 percent, some years the goals were exceeded by 300-400 percent or more. More recent data indicates that trend continued until at least 2011. A reasonable person would think that, once this error was discovered, both ADF&G and the Board of Fisheries would revise the management plans that were based on this faulty data, but they did not and still have not.

During the decades that time and area restrictions were placed on the drift fleet to conserve northern sockeye stocks, no studies were ever done and no evidence or data was ever generated to show that the restrictions had any effect on escapements. What we have learned from the use of mandatory restrictions is that they prevent fishery managers from reacting to real-time information during the season and interfere with their ability to manage the whole fishery. Harvest opportunity has been lost due to the restrictions; not only the millions of sockeye that exceeded escapement goals in the Susitna, but also millions of sockeye that exceeded escapement goals in other Cook Inlet systems due to mandatory restrictions that were based on the faulty sonar data and flawed assumptions.

Due to copyright law, we cannot repost full articles. You can read the whole article  here.

The Facts about UCIDA’s Lawsuit

Cook Inlet Salmon Management

UCIDA vs. National Marine Fisheries Service

In January of 2013, the United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA) filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Secretary of Commerce, challenging the approval of a decision by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) to remove federal waters in Cook Inlet from the scope of the federal salmon fishery management plan. This case is currently pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, as case number 14-35928, and is under assessment by the mediation program for settlement potential.

There have been a lot of misstatements made about this case, including statements by some Alaska legislators and in several op-ed pieces by Howard Delo, Les Palmer and by Karl Johnstone (recently removed as Board of Fisheries Chairman), as to the purpose and scope of this case, and even as to the parties in this case.   We hope that this brief statement provides clarification on the nature of this litigation.

UCIDA does not want federal management of the Cook Inlet fishery. We want the Council, in conjunction with the State and stakeholder groups, to write a Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) for Cook Inlet that complies with the 10 National Standards in the Magnuson Stevens Act, then delegate authority to the State to manage the fishery. This is the same method currently used in SE Alaska for salmon management and in other fisheries across the state, Bering Sea crab for example. We are not asking for anything out of the ordinary, we are only asking that the State be held to the same management standards in Cook Inlet that they have to follow in other areas.

Read the full article here.

Governor Walker’s Transition Team Reports

On January 20, 2015 Governor Walker issued the following press release regarding the work of his transition teams:

Governor Press Release Transition Team Reports 01202015

The link to the Fisheries Transition Committee report is here.

Mat-Su Salmon Science and Conservation Symposium

Symposium 2014On November 18th and 19th UCIDA vice president Erik Huebsch and member Catherine Cassidy attended the Mat-Su Salmon Science and Conservation Symposium. This annual event is organized by the Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership to provide an update on threats and damage to salmon habitat in the basin, projects intended to mitigate damage and related research. Numerous speakers gave presentations on a wide range of topics including hydrological mapping, ecological risk assessment for large scale hydropower projects, ATV damage to riparian habitats, etc. Many of these presentations will be made available soon on the Partnership’s website – .

The Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership is a collaborative organization of agencies, businesses and organizations that are involved in, or concerned with, any aspect of sustaining salmon. UCIDA is a member organization. The Partnership recently updated their strategic action plan to include four new threats: aquatic invasive species (pike and elodea), large-scale industrial development, off-road recreational vehicles, and climate change.

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

News from Facebook

The Offshore Test Fish Boat was unable to sample July 5 due to poor weather conditions. Offshore Test Fish numbers are updated through July 4.


Alyssa Frothingham
Upper Cook Inlet Asst. Area Management Biologist
43961 Kalifornsky Beach Rd. Suite B
Soldotna, AK 99669
Ph: 907-260-2916
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