Board of Fisheries rejects hatchery proposals
The state Board of Fisheries wrapped up three days of meetings focused on Lower Cook Inlet issues on Friday. Hatchery operations were one of the more debated topics, with a number of proposals before the board aimed at limiting hatchery operations.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed the quotes from board members Wood and Godfrey. We regret the error.
As with many proposals that come before the board, the first order of business when it comes to deliberations is simply figuring out if the board is legally allowed to do what’s in a proposal. More than half a dozen proposals for this round of Lower Cook Inlet meetings sought changes to hatchery operations like at Tutka Bay, which got a lot of attention.
One sought to suspend, revoke or alter Tutka Bay’s hatchery permit to reduce its capacity. Board member Gerad Godfrey said that proposal is far enough beyond the range of decision the Board is authorized to make that he didn’t even want a vote on it.
“This proposal...is clearly, strickly within the province of the Commissioner to make a decision on it and the board has no jurisdiction whatsoever to be even considering it.”
The Board would vote that proposal down. Other proposals were aimed at how the hatcheries derive revenue, seeking changes to the ability of hatcheries to recover their costs by fishing for the salmon they produce. How many hatchery fish are available for commercial and other user groups has long been a source of contention. And while hatcheries aim to make fifty percent of them available for other users, that’s not usually the case.
But some of the proposals were simply too broad and too vague to garner action from the board, such as limiting the number of each salmon species harvested for cost recovery. Board member John Wood said the long term implications were too risky.
“So in effect they’re saying we don’t like just getting ten or twenty percent. So either you get to that fifty-fifty split or we’re going to bankrupt you and all of us will get nothing. So it’s paradoxical in that regard to me, which seems odd. And if it’s looked at through that light...it seems sort of surreptitious and insincere on its face.”
The Tutka Bay is operated by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, a non-profit group whose mission goes beyond producing fish to catch and sell. Board member Wood worried that limiting a group’s ability to recover its cost through that fishing would in turn limit its ability to do other work promoting healthy fisheries.
“People are concerned about splitting fifty-fifty or seventy-thirty with the common property fisheries. That’s just one facet of where the revenues go to from the CIAA in this particular case. It’s not lost on me that CIAA is doing the notching of beaver dams in the Susitna Valley, pike eradication, dealing with smolt enumeration. There are problems in the streams and I can speak first hand, there is not money in the state budget to address those.”
The board would also vote that proposal down. In fact, there wasn’t much traction at all for making any big changes to hatchery operations, though most members did say there was a need for review of cost recovery operations and other areas of concern. The board will take those up separately in subcommittee meetings at a later date.