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At its Statewide Finfish meeting earlier this month, the Alaska Board of Fisheries voted down three proposals that stood to affect Kodiak fisheries. Chief among them was Proposal 171, which would have changed the criteria that are used to decide allocation for different user groups. The proposal failed in a 5-2 vote.

The proposal, which was submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, stated “Allocation decisions are often closely aligned with historical use of the resource; however, while historical use may be taken into consideration when reviewing and making an allocation decision, this criterion alone shall not be determinate.” 

It went on to request a change in the order of importance for criteria when allocation “within the Nonsubsistence Use Areas of the State is considered.” 

The proposal listed “the importance of each fishery for providing residents the opportunity to harvest fish for personal and family consumption” as the top priority that should be considered, followed by the number of individuals who participate in the fishery, the economic importance of the fishery to each local region, and the importance of the fishery to the state’s economy.

Following these criteria in order of importance were “the history of each personal use, sport, guided sport, and commercial fishery with emphasis on the previous 20 years,” “the importance of each fishery in providing recreational opportunities for residents and nonresidents,” and “the availability of alternative fisheries resources of similar characteristics.” 

As justification for the proposal, KRSA argued that the state statute that dictates the BOF’s fishery allocation method was adopted into regulation in 1991 and no action has been taken to amend or improve it since. 

“The allocation of fishery resources should follow an adaptive management process,” the proposal stated. “This process includes periodic re-evaluation and updating of the management goals and objectives to ensure they are relevant to current conditions and needs.” 

The proposal was the subject of discussion at a Dec. 19 Kodiak Fisheries Workgroup meeting, where it was noted that the proposal could adversely affect Kodiak’s commercial fishing industry. 

“It puts recreational interests far ahead of commercial interests. It negates any historical reliance on the fishery that goes back more than 20 years. Anything before 1998 in Kodiak won’t be taken into consideration,” said commercial fishermen Darren Platt during the public comment period of the Dec. 19 meeting. “It’s designed to allocate away from commercial fisherman to recreational fisheries … I think it would be unequivocally bad for this city and our fishery.”

Among public comments on the issue submitted to the BOF, was testimony from local fisherman and former BOF member Sue Jeffrey. Jeffrey took issue with the proposal’s request to consider only the past 20 years of participation as a criterion and that it would have restricted the BOFs flexibility in decision-making by putting in place a prescribed formula for allocation. 

She also noted that current law already mandates that personal-use fishing takes priority over commercial use when a conservation concern arises. 

“Proposal 171 presents a sweeping change, not for the good,” Jeffrey wrote. “It undermines the principles upon which fisheries management in Alaska is built and will result in long-term costs to the State of Alaska and its people.” 

Letters of opposition were also submitted by the Under Sixty Cod Harvesters and the North Pacific Fisheries Association among others.

During a FWG meeting Wednesday, Kodiak Island Borough Assembly representative and Kodiak Fish and Game Advisory Committee member Julie Kavanaugh gave the rest of the work group an update on the Board of Fish meeting, noting that the proposal was voted down.

“From my perspective that was good for Kodiak,” Kavanaugh said. “Their argument was that this was only going to be in non-subsistence areas in the state, and one of my concerns was that Kodiak almost lost its subsistence status a few years ago.

“Across the entire state, there were only three advisory committees that support any of these proposals and they were all centralized on the mainland,” Kavanuagh said. “It became really clear as discussion progressed that it was area-specific and not a state-wide deal … it was an in-river issue for personal-use access for people who don’t have a subsistence outlet and they’re kind of constrained by geography.”

Kavanaugh also noted that proposals 169 and 170, which both stood to affect Kodiak were unanimously voted down. Respectively, those proposals involved a request to repeal and readopt the policy for statewide salmon escapement goals and a request to amend the policy for the management of sustainable salmon fisheries to include management targets.

 

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