Planning underway for fishing season

Apr 23, 2020

During the Governor’s Friday Covid-19 press conference, questions came up about Cook Inlet fisheries, commercial, personal use, and guided.
    Adam Crum, the commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services said there are many people working to devise a plan for the commercial season.
     “So there is a group that has actually been started as well that involves Cook Inlet fisheries, trying to figure this out. How are we going to deal with working with coastal communities, Homer and Kasilof and Kenai where these boats launch at up to go out for some of those salmon fisheries,” Crum said. “And so, yes, that's an ongoing concerning conversation talking with the city managers and leadership about those groups. We've got our own little particular working group for these on-road system coastal communities. That are being set up by the Alaska Municipal League.”
    There are others, Crum says, working on sport and personal use fisheries, including eventually the Kasilof and Kenai rivers dipnet fisheries in July.
    “There's another group that has made up of guides, sport fishermen and personal use that is meeting a couple of times a week and they're trying to put together recommendations. We've got members of our both health department team and our industry sustainability group talking with them about what are some of the protocols that we can implement, other practices, some of these things that we could look towards to make sure that we have some sort of action down there,” he said.
    Meanwhile, Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens is looking to Cordova for signs on where the commercial season is headed.
     “Cordova is sort of the sort of the canary in the coal mine because they're  the first season opened up here and the earliest, a salmon season. And they've done a great job of trying to control it and control the posts that come in and make sure everyone is tested,” the senator said. “Bristol Bay, of course is not in my district, but it's of course, the biggest fishery in the country. And there are a lot of concerns out there. Communities are very concerned about the, maybe up to 10,000 people that come in in the normal year. And would that lead to a further infections.”
    The governor’s Covid-19 emergency mandates list Alaska’s fisheries as essential services, and they do require fishermen and processors to quarantine when entering the state. But Stevens says ultimately, communities hold a lot of sway over whether fisheries happen out of their ports.
    “You know, it's really up to the communities. Communities have to decide what they want and how they want to do this. So there are folks who, of course, in Bristol Bay that are saying that they don't need to have a season, that it'd be just a good time not to have a salmon season, to close it down,” Stevens said.” There are others that don't want any restrictions at all. But it's a community that they have to make that decision. The legislature will certainly support them in any way. As you know, lots of monies are coming in.”
    He said the governor is in receipt of the $1.25 billion in CARES Act funds dedicated for Alaska. He said the Kenai Peninsula Borough will get $37 million, the City of Homer almost $8 million, and the City of Seldovia $250,000.