Bristol Bay Chinook Issues On Tape for Alaska Board of Fisheries Meeting

Image: Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is scheduled to take up statewide finfish issues, including an amended plan for managing Chinook salmon in the Nushagak-Mulchatna rivers of Southwest Alaska, when the board meets in Anchorage from March 10-14.

Statewide declines in salmon stocks in several area, including the Nushagak Chinook stocks of concern, have been an increasing topic of discussion among fisheries managers, who are researching multiple related issues ranging from warming ocean waters to the nutritional values of changes in the predator-prey relationships of fish and sea mammals.

Proposal 11 on the agenda for the board of fisheries meeting identifies several specific management objectives, including consistent sport fishing opportunity and a directed commercial king salmon fishery provided there is ample surplus available plus an uninterrupted commercial sockeye salmon fishery with minimal disruptions.

Proposal 11 also includes a call for managing large sockeye runs so that escapements fall in the upper portion of the escapement goal range, which would reduce incidental catch, and for using a Nushagak District test fishery to assess abundance of sockeye and king salmon with a new provision.

The proposal recommends that from June 1 through June 30, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game conduct a drift gillnet test fishery to assess the abundance of sockeye and king salmon prior to opening by emergency order a fishing period directed at sockeyes.

Also included in the proposal is a plan to consider a directed commercial Chinook fishery when the total in river king salmon return to the Nushagak is projected to exceed 95,000 fish.

Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) was among those submitting written testimony on Proposal 11 in advance of the upcoming meeting.

Wink noted that at present Chinook salmon are not being reliably counted and there is not sufficient information to make reasonable decisions. His testimony contends that the fisheries board’s current plan of action appears to be unsupported by science or the board’s statutory goals.

“Additionally, the current plan completely ignores the fact that, in addition to conservation, the board should also focus on economic development and commercial utilization of the fishery resource,” he said.