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."