Alaska Board of Fisheries

Courtesy of Indy Walton

Locals might know Indy Walton from the ice rink, where he coached the Soldotna High School hockey team. Or they might recognize him as a financial adviser with the local branch of Edward Jones.

Now, he’s on deck to join the powerful state Board of Fisheries, the body that makes decisions about fish allocation and management in Alaska’s waters. Gov. Mike Dunleavy appointed Walton to the seventh open seat on the board Sept. 3, months after his previous nominee was rejected by the Alaska Legislature.

Redoubt Reporter

The Board of Fisheries has denied two emergency petitions from Kenai Peninsula setnetters asking to reopen a limited fishery for what is left of the sockeye run.

 

The east side setnet commercial fishery has been closed since July 20 after the Alaska Department of Fish and game closed the Kenai River king salmon sportfishery. The setnets are tied to the restrictions in the sportfishery, and came out of the water entirely when the sportfishery closed. The late run of king salmon has been depressed this year—only 6,420 large kings have passed the sonar on the Kenai, and Fish and Game is projecting that the run won’t make the lower end of the escapement goal, even without harvest.

Nikiski Community Council

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking for public comment on a plan to add a community lake in Nikiski to its fish stocking program.

The department announced that it’s considering adding John Hedberg Lake to the stocking program, which would put about 700 catchable rainbow trout in the lake this year and 1,000 fingerlings annually after that. John Hedberg Lake is located in Nikiski Community Park near the Nikiski Community Recreation Center, about mile 23 of the Kenai Spur Highway.

Courtesy of Bottom Line Charters

Scientists are still digging for answers about the low abundance of adult razor clams on the east side of Cook Inlet. Meantime, charter companies are taking passengers over to the west side, where razors abound.

“The west side is like Deep Creek and Clam Gulch were 20, 24 years ago," said Ernie Kerby. He’s owned Bottom Line Charters, in Ninilchik, for almost three decades.

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association

The Senate Resources Committee held a much-belated public hearing on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointees to the Alaska Board of Fisheries on Friday.

Central peninsula District O Sen. Peter Micciche chaired the hearing.

“This meeting really is for you. We had our session cut short in Juneau because of COVID, obviously. And we did not have an opportunity to go through our confirmations,” Micciche said.

Appointees have been serving without a confirmation vote in the Legislature, which drew a lot of criticism in public testimony. Susan Doherty is the executive director of the Southeast Alaska Seiners Association.

“And I would implore the Senate and the House Fisheries Committees to work on legislation and/or amendments to the state constitution, if necessary, to correct this issue,” Doherty said. “People who are given such power should be seasoned, knowledgeable and fully vetted by the confirmation process, period.”

The Kenai City Council held a hybrid, in-person and phone-in meeting Wednesday night. The first order of business was extending the city’s emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City offices and facilities are closed for the time being but staff are still available over email and phone to assist the public.

The council also modified city code to be able to hold meetings more over the phone in the future. Existing code limited how many council and commission members could call in to establish a quorum. Meetings will still be held in a way that allows participation from the public but council and committee members will be participating from afar.

In other business, the council passed a resolution supporting Robert Ruffner for appointment to the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Ruffner is the retired executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum.

In Cook Inlet salmon runs, increasing fish for one purpose means taking them away from another. On Tuesday, the Alaska Board of Fisheries passed a proposal intended to get more salmon into upper Cook Inlet streams, by restricting the commercial Central District drift fishery. 

The “conservation corridor” will be expanded, pushing the central drift fleet closer to shore to let more north-bound silver and sockeye salmon get to rivers in the Susitna drainage. 

“The highest user is the drift fleet, so, you know, we need to make up a little bit there and, unfortunately, I feel the highest user needs to come up with the change, I guess,” said Board member Fritz Johnson, from Dillingham.

Proposal 133 came from the Mat-Su Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission. That borough is stepping up advocacy for more fish allocation to Mat-Su streams, citing an economic analysis that sportfishing revenue has declined $150 million from 2007 to 2017. Board member John Wood, of Willow, championed that cause.

“I sit here and listen day after day after day about overescapement here and overescapement there. Please, someone show me in the entire Susitna basin where we have an overescapement issue. We don’t,” Wood said. “We’re just the opposite. If you want your most effective tool to minimize the northern-bound fish, this is it. If you want to help the Susitna rehabilitate those streams, this is the tool to do so." 

Redoubt Reporter

The Alaska Board of Fisheries heard two days of public comments over the weekend, weighing in on the 171 Upper Cook Inlet fisheries proposals it is considering this week and next in Anchorage.

As usual, it’s a tug-of-war over fish allocation, not only between commercial, sport and personal-use fisheries, but between regions, as well. The Matanuska-Susitna area is making a concerted effort to convince the board to regulate for more fish to get past mid-inlet commercial fisheries to upper-inlet streams.

Peter Matisse, of the Susitna Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee, advocated for a conservation corridor, which would keep commercial drift-net fishing closer to shore, the thought being that this would allow passage of salmon heading to northern streams.

“Biologists are just beginning to understand that many of these fish travel through these corridors to great harvesting press and struggle to make it to the last destination, of the Su,” Matisse sai

Board of Fisheries rejects hatchery proposals

Dec 17, 2019
Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association

 

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.

 

 

Board of Fisheries to look at mariculture questions

Dec 3, 2019
NOAA

 

When the state Board of Fisheries meets in Seward next week, it will have plenty of fishing issues to deal with. But not every proposal has to do with fishing, or even fish. A pair of proposals are focused on aquatic plants.

Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association

When the state Board of Fisheries meets in Seward next month, it will entertain a suite of proposals aimed at hatchery regulations. More than half a dozen proposals have been submitted and the deadline for comments on those proposals was Monday.


Board of Fish reverses decision to hold Kenai meeting

Oct 28, 2019
KBBI

The state Board of Fish voted last week to hold its 2020 Upper Cook Inlet meetings in Anchorage. This reverses a decision the board made earlier this year to not just hold that meeting in Kenai for the first time since 1999, but to begin rotating the triennial, two week long meetings between the Peninsula, Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley.


Alaska Board of Fisheries

  Amid the turmoil of the Alaska Board of Fisheries’ flip-flopping meeting sites, the Kenai City Council came out firmly behind the local representative on the regulatory body.

At its most recent meeting, the council passed with unanimous consent supporting Robert Ruffner for another term on the Fish Board.

Emily Kwong/KCAW

 

A surprise vote by the Alaska Board of Fisheries Friday caught the fishing community on the Kenai Peninsula off guard. Triennial meetings regarding Upper Cook Inlet fishing issues haven’t been held on the Peninsula in nearly two decades. The board recently voted to begin moving those meetings around on a rotating basis, including holding the 2020 session on the Peninsula. But after Friday’s vote, that two-week meeting will be held once again in Anchorage.

 

 


The legislative delegation for the Kenai Peninsula have universally expressed disappointment over a recent Alaska Board of Fisheries decision.

At a meeting last week addressing other issues, the board voted to change the location of next year's Upper Cook Inlet from the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage.

Representative Ben Carpenter of Nikiski said he hopes the Board of Fisheries will reconsider its actions with the "public’s trust in mind.”

After being turned aside in May, the Kenai River Sportsfishing Association has won another audience before the Alaska Board of Fisheries regarding problems the lobbying group has with hatchery pink salmon production in Prince William Sound.

In May, the Board punted the issue to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotton. Last week Cotton sent a letter to KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease saying he did not find that an emergency existed and denied the petition.