The Alaska Board of Fisheries is meeting in Kodiak for four days starting on Saturday.  There is a public reception for the board at the Afognak Building starting at 6 p.m. I encourage you to attend and meet the board members that make many of the regulatory decisions for Kodiak’s fisheries.

Kodiak fishermen are long-standing supporters of the Board of Fisheries process.  That process has resulted in salmon management plans that provide stable local stock fisheries. Some of these plans have been in place for 40 years, some for 30 years, and others 20-plus years.  Stability has been a hallmark of Kodiak salmon fisheries under the board’s process, which Kodiak fishermen helped guide and develop.

Having said that, the upcoming Board of Fisheries meeting is a major aggravation for Kodiak’s salmon fishermen.  Ten proposals submitted from outside the Kodiak area attack two long settled fishery management plans developed and reviewed over the years by several past boards. Both plans are working exactly as intended and don’t need changing.  The two plans are the Cape Igvak Salmon Management Plan and the North Shelikof Strait Salmon Management Plan.

Proposals to reduce or eliminate the Cape Igvak fishery could cost Kodiak about $3 million annually and the proposed extension of the North Shelikof plan would result in $4.5 million annually in lost revenue. Combined, proposed changes could take away about a quarter of Kodiak’s salmon revenue — on average.

To change long-standing regulatory management plans such as these should require extraordinary new information in order to deviate significantly from allocations that past boards have developed and reviewed over decades. The 10 proposals offer no such new information.  

The Mixed Stock Salmon Fisheries Policy and the board’s allocation criteria would both need to be invoked for the board to make changes to these long-term management plans. The board’s first allocation criteria is “the history of each … commercial fishery.” Plans in place for 30 and 40 years should firmly establish the important precedent of their history. Again, nothing presented with the proposals addresses allocation criteria that would support change.

Yet Kodiak fishermen have to gear up and vigorously defend against these unjustified proposals submitted by a single individual or a single stakeholder group. This is a waste of time, money, and perhaps worst of all, it is a strain on the credibility of the board’s process itself. 

The Cape Igvak and North Shelikof Strait salmon management plans illustrate that successful management plans shouldn’t need defending at every board cycle. Perhaps the board should treat long time management plans the same as escapement goals, with no changes unless the Alaska Department of Fish and Game recommends a fine tuning for specific conservation reasons.

Never the less, in this round of review, the board should vote NO on all 10 allocative proposals to change these two salmon management plans. Why change what is working well?

Duncan Fields

Chairman, Kodiak Salmon Workgroup                                                                                         

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