BOF meeting could be controversial

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is preparing for its meetings taking up Prince William Sound finfish proposals, starting Dec. 1 and running through Dec. 5.

While not quite as contentious as the Upper Cook Inlet meetings, and lasting less than half as long, there are plenty of controversial proposals for the Copper River district.

Several involve the personal-use dipnet salmon fishery, including not allowing dipnetting from boats, because people in boats frequently target schools of salmon resting in holes away from the banks, cleaning out the schools and not allowing for escapement.

The proposal was submitted by the Ahtna Tene Nene’ Customary and Traditional Use Committee.

Another calls for raising the optimum escapement goal from 360,000 to 750,000 sockeye to 700,000 to 1.2 million.

Submitted by the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee, the proposal suggests that the escapement goal is artificially low to allow for catching more king salmon under the guise of preventing over-escapement of sockeye.

The Cordova District Fishermen United, Gillnet Division, is asking the BOF to eliminate mandatory inside waters commercial salmon fishery closures in the Copper River district from the management plan, arguing that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has the authority to manage fisheries and has demonstrated its ability to do so effectively, making mandatory closures unnecessary. It would still allow for the closure of inside waters by emergency order.

As in Cook Inlet and other areas around the state, there are concerns about king salmon conservation and kings being caught in the sockeye fishery. One proposal calls for expanding the inside waters to one-quarter mile offshore in the outside waters to avoid more kings, while another calls for opening additional areas in the inside waters to avoid sending boats into the dangerous waters outside the bars and intercepting fish bound for other areas.

Another calls for reducing the maximum mesh count in the Copper River district from 60 meshes to 29 meshes to allow for more king salmon escapement. Another calls for eliminating the May commercial salmon fishery altogether if the king salmon forecast for the Copper River is below 35,000, or the most recent 20-year average.

The meetings start at 8 a.m. on Dec. 1 at the Valdez Civic and Convention Center, 314 Clifton Drive, Valdez, Alaska. All meeting materials, including public comment, can be found at www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov. The meetings will be live streamed, with a link at the same address.

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

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