Kodiak fishermen intercepting UCI salmon, say studies

Two studies commissioned by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that were released last month examine the genetic makeup of salmon harvested in the Kodiak Management Area from 2014-2016 and show that a substantial number of sockeye and chinook salmon bound for Upper Cook Inlet are being intercepted by Kodiak fishermen.

The studies show that over the course of those three years well in excess of 1 million sockeye and chinook salmon were harvested in KMA that were bound for UCI, with 626,473 sockeye in 2015 alone.

The timing of the release and the findings have UCI fishing groups crying foul.

The timing is coming under fire because the public release is a full nine months after the close of the call for proposals for both Kodiak and UCI Board of Fisheries meetings.

The Kodiak meetings are currently under way, and UCI meetings take place in February.

United Cook Inlet Drift Association penned a letter to the Board of Fisheries calling the harvest of so many UCI salmon in the KMA “unacceptable” and the BOF notice for regulatory changes involving KMA possibly “legally deficient.”

The letter also points out that the samples taken in 2014 and 2015 were genetically assessed and assigned to geographical origins in the fall/early winter of 2015, prior to the deadline to submit proposals for KMA and UCI.

“No one in ADF&G said anything about genetic results indicating that hundreds of thousands of Cook Inlet salmon stocks were being harvested in the Kodiak salmon fisheries,” it states.

UCI area management biologist Pat Shields said that the data is new, and people are just starting to talk about it.

He also said that the studies did not look at all of the Kodiak harvest.

“They looked at areas where they thought higher intercept rates may be taking place.”

Shields said that it still needs to be parsed out where within a district or statistical area the UCI fish were caught.

“Are they coming further offshore, or are they being caught alongside the Kodiak fish that are typically harvested close to the river mouths?’

He said further study will be needed to determine if there is anything to be done in terms of a management plan or changes to existing management plans.

The only way get this information in front of the BOF at this late date would be in the form of a petition, not a proposal.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.