Proposals creating management plans at upcoming Board of Fisheries meeting
New management plans, harvest guidelines and changing season lengths are all on the table at the upcoming Board of Fisheries meeting discussing finfish regulations in Lower Cook Inlet. The board meets every three years to change these regulations, and this year, they have 43 proposals to consider.
Mike Booz is the Lower Cook Inlet Sportfish Area Manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He said the department has been regulating saltwater sport fishing for king salmon through emergency orders for twelve out of the past fifteen years. This means they make changes without direct involvement from others.
Booz said they want to turn those emergency orders into a management plan for the board to approve.
“We want to outline those in regulation to give the Board and the public an opportunity to provide some input on how those fisheries should be structured,” he said.
The department is proposing one plan for summer king salmon sport fishing in Lower Cook Inlet saltwaters, and one for freshwater king salmon in Anchor River, Deep Creek and Ninilchik River.
These plans consist of establishing the season length, fishing area, limits on the size and number of fish, as well as the guideline harvest level, or GHL.
The department also harvests fish from the Ninilchik to create broodstock for multiple fisheries and restocks the river with hatchery fish. Because of this, another proposal will extend the season for the Ninilchik to ensure more hatchery fish are caught to preserve the genetic diversity of fish there.
For winter king salmon fisheries, the department is proposing changing the GHL. Booz said sport anglers have exceeded guidelines nine years in a row.
“We're asking the board to either consider modifying the GHL or to identify a management action, such as restricting the fishery in some capacity to stay within the GHL,” he said.
Proposals could also bring significant changes to residents who fish in the China Poot Personal Use Dip Net Fishery. One aims to extend the season to align it with salmon timing. Another proposes including the fishery into the Upper Cook Inlet personal use management plan. This would require fishers to get a permit and create a seasonal or household limit.
Outside of salmon, the board will also consider proposals on groundfish. One in particular changes the harvest levels of rockfish, and aims to reduce commercial and sport fishing harvest levels. Booz said the proposal should help the department gain a better understanding of the rockfish stock.
“The bag limit proposals that we have aren't likely to return the harvest to a historical low level,” he said, “just looking to kind of stabilize the harvest in the meantime for us to give us more time to do some more refined stock assessment work through modeling and to develop a more comprehensive management approach for black rockfish.”
Members of the public will be able to comment on all proposals at the upcoming meeting. The deadline for online comments is Nov. 13, but anyone can sign up to give public testimony during the meeting, which will happen from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 at Land’s End Resort in Homer. People will also have the option to listen to the proceedings online.