Board of Fisheries Observations Part 6

In Part 4 we mentioned that the Board had been given incorrect data from ADF&G during deliberations on Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery proposals. The incorrect information included inflated rates of overall northern coho exploitation and an inflated rate of the drift catch of coho in full-inlet openings versus Area 1 openings. As it turns out, recent research data shows that the drift fleet catches fewer coho in full inlet openings than when it is restricted to Area 1, south of Kalgin Island. The Board was given the corrected data after deliberations.

We’ve been hoping that the Board would regard the corrected data compelling enough to reconsider proposals to restore additional time and area to the drift fleet. On this final day of the meeting, it appears that they are not willing to reconsider.

Only two changes were made to the Drift management plan. Between July 16 and July 31, in the middle tier for Kenai sockeye (2.3-4.6 million), we may get one district-wide opening instead of being restricted to Area 1. The other change is an alignment of the boundaries of the Expanded Kasilof Section with the Anchor Point Section.

The Mat-Su Borough opposed that minor adjustment, claiming that it would target more of their coho…  Mat-Su spokespeople impressed everyone with their greed during the meeting. Now they are pretending that the Board has done them wrong:

From the Valley Frontiersman:

Board of Fish Lowers the Boom on Mat-Su Basin fisheries (3/2). In a 4 to 3 vote by the Alaska Board of Fisheries in Anchorage today, the Mat-Su Basin fisheries were dealt a blow. The commercial drift gillnet fishing fleet will be allowed more time in the Conservation Corridor—a protected fish passing lane to the north, hard won by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish & Wildlife Commission at the last board meeting in 2014 and staunchly defended this week before a Fish Board, which was mostly deaf to the conservation plight.

By the way, the Mat-Su Borough representatives were also given the corrected data about drift exploitation of coho but they have never let science interfere with their efforts to eliminate commercial fishing.

Board of Fisheries Observations Part 5

We’ve been very disappointed with the outcome at this meeting for all of the reasons mentioned in the previous reports. On the other hand, this is the first Board meeting in a long, long time where we gained anything at all.

The atmosphere of the meeting has been much improved. Commercial fishers and proposals from commercial fishers or groups have been treated with the same respect as other user groups, rather than the disrespect shown to us at previous Board meetings. Chairman John Jensen has set a new example on that matter. We hear that KRSA is outraged that the Board is treating people decently and fairly.

KRSA has a bunch of paid consultants here including Kevin Delaney, Mac Minard and Ray Beamesderfer. These guys are also on the Mat-Su Borough’s payroll for this.

UCIDA doesn’t have any paid consultants. Audrey is our only paid staffperson here, on her normal salary. UCIDA folks who have attended, on their own time, include Board members Dave Martin, Erik Huebsch, Dan Anderson, John McCombs, Ian Pitzman, Dyer VanDevere, Steve Tvenstrup and Dino Sutherland,  Members Steve Vanek, Teague Vanek, Catherine Cassidy, Wes Humbyrd, Brent Keene, Bob Merchant, Bob Wolfe, Mark Mahan, Judd Walker ,David Hillstrand, Bruce Gabrys, Ray Bellamy, JR., Coby Wilson, Jeff Widman, Brent Western, Eric Nyce and  John Gucer.( If anyone was left off the list, please accept our apologies.)

Representatives from Pacific Star, Icicle, Snug Harbor and Inlet Fish have also been in attendance.  Our thanks go to them.


Board of Fisheries Observations Part 4

Part 4

UCIDA brought proposals to the Board to restore full-inlet fishing time and eliminate the 1% rule.

The Board decided to restore only one full inlet opening between July 16 and July 31. They declined to eliminate the 1% Rule in August for the drift fleet.

Our proposals were based on new science that shows that it is not possible to selectively harvest particular stocks. The net result of time and area restrictions has been under-harvest of Kenai and Kasilof sockeye (producing chronic overescapements) and under-harvest of other surplus coho, chum and pink salmon. This has cost the industry and the local and state economies millions of dollars.

Opposition to our proposals, as usual, was primarily based on Mat-Su sockeye and coho exploitation rates. ADF&G provided bad exploitation data that had to be corrected after the Board made their decisions on the proposals. ADF&G ultimately used the exploitation rates of Little Susitna River and Jim Creek to convince the Board not to restore more full-inlet fishing time or eliminate the 1% Rule.

For years UCIDA has documented and argued the inappropriate use of the Little Susitna River and Jim Creek as index streams for coho exploitation. Intense sport fish pressure, discontinued coho stocking programs and serious urbanization effects on their productivity should have ruled them out long ago. We have also recommended that the state should restore coho stocking programs in those systems (a relatively inexpensive endeavor).

The Mat-Su anti-commercial fishing people have refused to allow stocking of those systems. We can only interpret that as their intent to use those streams as tools for continuing to chip away at all commercial fishing effort. ADF&G has documented that there are more than a million surplus, unharvested coho in the Northern District. But no one can harvest them because coho sport fishing in Jim Creek has to be restricted. Really?!

Board of Fisheries Observations Part 3

The drift fishery in Upper Cook Inlet has been increasingly restricted since the 1990s in efforts to allow more sockeye and coho salmon to reach Mat-Su drainages. Since the 1980s, invasive northern pike, introduced by residents, have been spreading through the Mat-Su drainages and endangering, through predation on juveniles, production of sockeye, coho and king salmon populations.

ADF&G and the Mat-Su Borough took no action to effectively control the spread of the invasive specie, nor measure the effects on salmon populations, nor even acknowledge that there was a potential problem for salmon productivity. They had been stalwart in their denial of the problem through the last Board cycle in 2014. During this Board meeting, they have finally acknowledged that there is a problem but they have no plan or intention of mitigating the situation.

The Mat-Su Borough’s position regarding the invasive pike problem is to insist that commercial fisheries be increasingly restricted to compensate for their production problem. Unfortunately, the Board has bought into this approach again.

Board of Fish Observations Part 2

UCIDA went into the Board meeting with high hopes of utilizing recent scientific data to restore some fishing time and areas. Once again, science has been overwhelmed by propaganda.

KRSA and the Mat-Su Borough have continued their strategy of condemning commercial fishing’s legitimate harvest of surplus salmon stocks. This is a subtle, twisted argument that implies commercial fishing gets more than a fair share. The fact is that only commercial fishing can effectively harvest the enormous surplus of salmon in Upper Cook Inlet. That’s why there has been a commercial fishery here for more than 135 years.

One of the ways they use this strategy is to react to any increase in commercial fish opportunity by insisting that any more fish we get comes out of their share. This is not true. There are abundant, unharvested surplus stocks of sockeye, coho, chums and pinks in Cook Inlet. Increased harvest of the surplus by commercial fishers does not take anything away from other groups, it just increases the total utilization.

UCIDA carefully explained this reality in comments to the Board, including very simple, descriptive pie charts. The alternative (wrong) reality of increases in commercial causing decreases in other users’ opportunity for harvest, has been repeated over and over again by KRSA, Mat-Su representatives, and Board members Payton, Morisky and Cain.

What the BOF is ignoring….

WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) – March 1, 2017 – In his first address to Department of Commerce employees this morning, newly confirmed Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross included U.S. fisheries among his top priorities for the department.

In a list of ten challenges facing the Commerce Department’s 47,000 employees, including the launch of more NOAA satellites and changes to the methodology of the 2020 U.S. Census, Mr. Ross specifically identified the need for “obtaining maximum sustainable yield for our fisheries.”

Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) refers to the largest catch that can be sustainably taken from a fish stock over an indefinite period of time.
Promoting sustainable fishing by achieving maximum sustainable yield is one of the primary goals of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the chief law governing fisheries management in the U.S.

The U.S. commercial fishing industry is a vital part of the U.S. economy, with landings of 9.7 billion pounds of seafood in 2015 worth $5.2 billion, according to the latest “Fisheries of the United States” report from NOAA Fisheries. Nevertheless, nearly 90 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S.
is imported into the country.

Mr. Ross has previously expressed his support for domestic fisheries and his desire to reduce America’s reliance on seafood imports, which has created an
$11 billion trade deficit for the U.S. seafood industry.

“Given the enormity of our coastlines, given the enormity of our freshwater, I would like to try to figure out how we can become much more self-sufficient in fishing and perhaps even a net exporter,” Mr. Ross said at his January confirmation hearing, according to Politico.

Mr. Ross was confirmed in a Senate vote 72-27 Monday night. He is a successful billionaire investor and founder of the private equity firm WL Ross & Co., from which he has agreed to divest as he takes on his new government role.

Board of Fish Observations

Part 1

Bring your hipboots or chestwaders to the Board of Fish meeting.

KRSA and the Mat-Su Borough have been adamantly insisting that every minute of commercial fishing in Upper Cook Inlet is a terrible assault on the opportunity for sport or personal use fishing. They argue this vague “opportunity” concept while ignoring scientific data.

“Opportunity” is not a scientifically defined regulatory measure. It is a nebulous concept that is easy to manipulate. KRSA and Mat-Su representatives persistently imply that “reasonable opportunity” is hooking a coho salmon every 15 minutes on any waterway with a coho population or dipnetting 10 sockeye per hour.

They have a wicked double standard on “opportunity.”  They say that it is just fine for commercial drift fishers to spend 4 to 6 days fishing in restricted areas in order to harvest the same amount they could catch in one unrestricted opening. Inefficient use of fuel, time, energy and processor’s extra costs – no problem. But they are broadcasting the new complaint that they are “under attack” from “reallocation by a thousand cuts.” (Wonder how much they pay PR pros to come up with their little sayings? Wonder why they aren’t spending that money on conservation?)

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.

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