Board of Fish meets in Homer this week

The meeting will discuss proposals related to Cook Inlet fishery regulations

The Alaska Board of Fish was slated to discuss a number of proposals related to Lower Cook Inlet at this week’s Lower Cook Inlet Finfish meeting in Homer.

Ahead of the meeting, Mike Booz, biologist with Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer, discussed the 43 proposals up for review.

There are a diversity of proposals and so there are a diversity of fisheries that could be impacted by board decisions. According to Booz, the primary proposals are those related to review and consider amendments to the Cook Inlet summer saltwater king salmon sport fishery regulations.

“Those are management plan proposals, so they won’t necessarily mean large changes but are more prescriptive towards transitions in management,” Booz said.

The reason for considered changes are related to a variety of factors. One is related to changes in freshwater sport fisheries and summer river closures due to stock declines. Another is the state Catch Sharing Plan to stabilize the allocation of halibut between the commercial and charter sectors that has transitioned over approximately the past decade, Booz said.

With the changes made in that plan, the federal component of the plan is placing more restricted regulations on the seasons for halibut and that is causing the guides to shift catch intentions toward other species.

“As the charter fleet shifts attention away from halibut, in order to maintain their businesses, they are looking towards other harvest options,” Booz said.

The charter catch of kings has almost doubled in the past few years, according to Booz.

“It’s important to note that is a mixed stock fishery, so the fish caught are from throughout the Pacific Northwest. Very few of those fish are Cook Inlet stock. So, the important aspect of that is that the board has a policy for mixed salmon stock fisheries.”

Other sport fishery proposal considerations in the packet for the meeting this week also include proposals for sport-caught rockfish and ling cod. This is similar to what is happening with the increase in interest in king salmon charters. Guides are looking at additional opportunities for their businesses. “The rock fish charter fishery catch has increased from historically less than 10,000 now to about 60,000,” according to Booz.

Proposals can be submitted to the board from individuals, organizations or management agencies. In the proposal packet, there are submissions from the department, the Homer Charter Association, the Homer Advisory Committee. “Everybody is noticing these trends in the charter industry and think that it’s time to make changes to the existing management plans,” Booz said.

Another topic that received several proposal submissions is related to the China Poot freshwater personal use fishery dates and dipnet regulations.

Also, modifications to liberalize the king salmon sport fishery in the Ninilchik River because of the surplus of hatchery kings is scheduled for review. Proposal 14, submitted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, states that over the last six years, the Ninilchik River king salmon supplementation program has made several improvements that have resulted in an increased hatchery return to the river.

“Since 2019, ADF&G has issued preseason and inseason emergency orders to to provide additional harvest hatchery fish. In the last three years, there has been more than 1,000 extra hatchery fish after broodstock collection.”

Proposal 43 reads to amend the Cook Inlet Salmon Allocation Plan to reduce pink salmon hatchery production to 25% of the year 2000 production as promised in 2000. The proposal is sponsored by the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee and reads that there is currently an over-production of hatchery pink salmon that threatens wild Alaska stocks.

This proposal is expected to have particular attention from the commercial fleet in the Inlet that relies on harvest of those stocks.

Booz mentioned the manner in which proposals are treated by the board.

“They treat each proposal exactly the same way. The proposals are grouped in a way that you can bring up conversations that fit together and talk about transitions that might need to happen but they do discuss and deliberate on each proposal individually. It is one of the great features of the board process; it is non-discriminatory.”

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game Board meeting is taking place at Land’s End Resort Nov. 28-Dec. 1. The tentative agenda is scheduled to start with a call to order at 8:30 a.m. Public testimony on the proposals was slated to begin Tuesday afternoon. The board was set to continue working through the agenda immediately upon conclusion of public testimony.