Kodiak could take a big hit to its salmon fisheries as other regions try and lay claim to more fish.
The Board of Fisheries will take up several proposals this weekend in Kodiak that again aim to change salmon management on the entire west side of the island. Most have resurfaced regularly over decades.
Five proposals from Chignik would change a plan that’s been in place for 40 years. They call for changing the dates and timing that Kodiak fishermen could fish at Cape Igvak on the Alaska Peninsula, which would reduce their historical time on the water by 75%. About 100 Kodiak boats fish the Cape.
They also want to change Kodiak’s percentage of the Chignik-bound sockeye from 15% to 5%, a 56% total reduction for Kodiak fishermen.
The Fish Board takes up regional issues on a three year cycle and protocol would indicate they will use that frame for their Kodiak decisions.
In 2016, stock identifications showed that over 90% of the fish caught at Cape Igvak that year were of Cook Inlet origin, not Chignik, an amount that varies from year to year. Kodiak has not fished the Cape for two years due to low numbers of Chignik bound sockeyes.
The call for change simply doesn’t hold up, says Duncan Fields of Kodiak’s Salmon Working Group.
“The facts or the circumstances for making changes to the fishery simply aren’t there. With one year of data and the data being unusual because of this presence of this Cook Inlet fish in the Chignik fishery.”
A proposal by the United Cook Inlet Drift Association – number 66 – calls for a whole new management plan for Kodiak that would impose sockeye catch caps on the west side of Kodiak Island.
“Even the Department of Fish and Game, which has really been careful not to take a position on allocative proposals, has said they oppose this UCIDA proposal, number 66, because it is burdensome and would be very difficult to implement and it probably is not going to achieve the end of protecting Cook Inlet fish.”
Proposal 37 calls for Kodiak and Cook Inlet Chinook salmon catches to be managed under a single plan at times of low abundance. Fields says Kodiak catches 8,000 Chinook salmon on average of which 2% come from Cook Inlet.
The combined proposals would be an $8 million loss to Kodiak salmon fishermen, Fields says.
He wants the Kodiak meeting to serve as a catalyst to stop proposals that resurface for decades, calling it a misuse of time, effort and resources.
“But when that proposal goes in and you’re in a defensive posture defending it, it’s taking hundreds of man hours and thousands of dollars in analysis just to maintain the status quo. And that kind of inequity I think should be addressed by the board.”
The Fish Board meets in Kodiak January 11 through 14.