After the well-publicized court win by commercial fishing groups requiring the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to work with the state to establish a Fisheries Management Plan for salmon fisheries that take place largely in federal waters complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the question is, now what?
That will be a topic of discussion at the council meeting taking place this week. In the meantime, David Martin, president of United Cook Inlet Drift Association, one of the groups that filed and funded the suit, commented on what some of the issues are, and the thinking behind the suit.
While the suit is still open to the appeals process, after having won a unanimous decision from the Ninth Circuit, the state has expressed reluctance to appeal.
Martin said that a positive outcome of the ruling would be a management plan based on the 10 national standards of MSA, including having a plan based on science, biology and maximum sustained yield and production.
“That means harvest the surplus, which is the best thing for the state, the communities, and the people who depend upon the resource, whether it be through taxes, jobs, or industry support, economic drivers in the coastal communities,” he said.
Martin said his understanding is that the council will need to write the FMP in compliance with MSA, which it will delegate to the state to oversee.
He said the Pacific Northwest has a similar system, with the council writing salmon plans, with input from committees and scientific panels. Martin would like to see similar committees on the council, with stakeholders helping direct the process.
Martin said there are several issues UCIDA would like to bring to the council’s attention, including invasive species such as pike and the weed elodia, as well as habitat issues in the Mat-Su such as culvert restrictions and four-wheeler trails through salmon spawning grounds, urbanization and stream warming from cutting back vegetation next to waterways.
Over-escapement also is a big issue, especially in the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. Not only does it lead to smaller returns, the loss of harvest is a large economic loss to the state and local communities.
“In 2014, the foregone harvestable surplus was $22-23 million, and a loss of $1.5 million in state taxes,” he said.
Martin said it is possible there might be federal dollars to help manage the fisheries under the new plan, like what happens in Southeast Alaska.
Cristy Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.