By Jake Dye
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will hold a public hearing on May 18 to receive input on an amendment to their fishery management plan that would establish federal management of salmon fisheries in federal waters of Upper Cook Inlet.
According to a release from NOAA, the hearing will be held online as a webinar, starting at 5 p.m. and running no later than 8 p.m.
A brief opening statement will be delivered by NOAA Fisheries staff, followed by public testimony. Oral and written testimony received during the hearing will be considered as staff prepare the amendment. Written testimony can be submitted until 5 p.m. May 25.
According to previous Clarion reporting, there has been back and forth regarding whether commercial fishing has been permitted in the federal waters in recent years. The Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone, the area of federal water under consideration, which runs south from Kalgin Island to around Anchor Point, was removed from the Fishery Management Plan in 2012.
In 2016, a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling required the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to reintroduce the EEZ into the plan by the end of 2020. The body chose to close the EEZ to commercial fishing — saying at the time that drift gillnet anglers would make compensatory harvest in state waters.
That ruling was implemented in 2021 for the 2022 season, but organizations like the United Cook Inlet Drift Association sued to keep the waters open last year — an Alaska District Court decision in June 2022 saw the closure reversed. With that decision, NOAA was directed to implement an amendment to the Salmon Fisheries Management Plan by May 2024.
At April 2023 meetings, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council chose not to take action on an amendment to the plan, according to meeting documents from the council.
“Absent a Council recommendation, NOAA Fisheries is preparing the amendment and implementing regulations,” the NOAA release says.
To attend the May 18 webinar, scheduled for 5 p.m., visit meet.google.com/bgc-tjpu-qgt.
To call into the webinar by phone, dial 731-393-1334 and enter the PIN 300 304 724#.
To submit written comments, visit regulations.gov and identify them with Docket ID NOAA-NMFS-2023-0065.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at email@example.com.