The United Cook Inlet Drift Association has submitted an agenda change request to the state’s Board of Fisheries that, if approved, would place weekly and seasonal caps on Kodiak sockeye salmon harvests.
The Kodiak Salmon Workgroup, recently resurrected to fight the Cook Inlet claims, will hold a series of informational meetings in the coming weeks to provide Kodiak residents with information on the agenda change request, what the organization has been doing to fight it and how the public can get involved.
The UCIDA submission requests the Alaska Department of Fish and Games’ Board of Fisheries consider adopting a new management plan in some portions of the Kodiak Management Area that the Kodiak Salmon Workgroup contends will keep Kodiak fishermen from harvesting millions of dollars worth of sockeye, pink and chum salmon each year.
“Normally the Board of Fish would not consider making any changes to regulations regarding Kodiak salmon until 2020, but they have a process called an agenda change request that they consider every October,” said Aaren Ellsworth, executive assistant for the Kodiak Salmon Workgroup. “If there’s concern that regulations are in error or there’s a conservation issue, people can put in an agenda change request.”
If the UCIDA’s agenda change request is approved in October, the UCIDA’s management plan would be considered for potential implementation at a future board meeting.
According to the change request, the UCIDA is seeking to “minimize the harvest of Cook Inlet and other non-local salmon stocks” in the Kodiak Management Area. The organization is basing the request on a genetic study released in January that showed sockeye salmon originating in the Cook Inlet are being intercepted and harvested in Kodiak.
According to the UCIDA, failure to change the Kodiak management plans based on the new study would result in “increased conflicts, inappropriate biological assessments (escapement goals), economic stress, perhaps inappropriate management plans and inappropriate use of Emergency Order authority.”
The organization asks the board to consider implementation of weekly and seasonal limits for Kodiak over a five-week period beginning the last week of June. The requested seasonal limits for sockeye are 20,000 for the Alitak District, 50,000 for Westside Kodiak, 15,000 for North Shelikof Strait at Afognak, Shuyak and Mainland, 50,000 for North Shelikof Strait at Southwest Afognak, and 20,000 for Eastside Kodiak.
Aaren Ellsworth, executive assistant for the Kodiak Salmon Workgroup, said these caps are “not actually based on any sort of historical fishery information,” as local runs of sockeye salmon on the west side of Kodiak alone are in the hundreds of thousands.
According to Duncan Fields, chair of the Kodiak Salmon Workgroup, the limits on sockeye would affect other Kodiak fisheries, as well.
“A substantial amount of Kodiak Island’s commercial salmon fishery during a 5 week period from late June through July is at risk,” he wrote in an email to the Kodiak Daily Mirror from his fish camp. “The proposed agenda change request would require Kodiak fishermen to forgo catching several hundred thousand local sockeye salmon as well a several hundred thousand local pink and chum salmon annually. The value of the lost harvest to Kodiak fishermen and businesses will be millions of dollars annually.”
According to Fields, the group needs residents to get involved and a series of informational meetings will help provide the public with the tools needed to successfully communicate with the board.
“Interested stakeholders on this issue include fishermen, processing workers, processing companies, fishery suppliers and vessel repair workers, local businesses, Kodiak municipalities and all Kodiak residents that have kids in Kodiak schools --- which are funded, in part, by the fisheries business tax and the KIB resource extraction tax,” he wrote.
The first of three informational meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Fisherman’s Hall. Additional meetings will be held at 10 a.m. on Sept. 23 and 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 28.
Snoderly can be reached at (907) 512-2624. Follow her on Twitter, @KDMjoann