“Escapement objectives are not being met, so we’re calling for an all-out conservation effort on behalf of Alaskans and our Canadian neighbors,” said Charlie Swanton, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).
Commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence users will all share the burden of conservation, because of forecasts of record-low Chinook returns in regional and transboundary drainages.
Planning for this year’s Chinook management actions began in Sitka, Alaska in January 2018, at a meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, with the board approving plans for stocks of concern in the Chilkat, King Salmon and Unuk rivers. Other Southeast Alaska and transboundary river king salmon stocks are not officially designated stocks of concern but given recent run data and the outlook for record low runs in 2018, additional conservative management actions are being implemented to protect all of these stocks, Swanton explained.
Commercial restrictions included the closure of the winter troll fishery on March 15. The May-June spring troll fishery will be open only in select terminal harvest areas, and a few defined areas on the outside coast, to target hatchery kings and conserve wild stocks.
The sport fishery will be restricted to non-retention of king salmon throughout the inside waters of Southeast Alaska. If surplus hatchery kings are present, an opportunity to harvest those fish will be provided in designated terminal harvest areas, but it will not be announced until a later date. For personal use and subsistence harvesters, area specific actions will be applied, along with measures to protect transboundary Taku and Stikine Chinook salmon stocks.
Thanks to meetings between Alaska and Canada Pacific Salmon Commissioners, Canada also has agreed to share in the Chinook conservation burden. ADF&G officials said reductions in Canadian harvests could include time, area, bag limit and gear restrictions for sport and commercial fisheries, and that an allowable catch reduction and non-retention are also being considered by Canadian officials.
Details on restrictions and closure in Southeast Alaska were to be announced in early April.
Approved salmon action plans are online at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/RIR.1J.2018.05.pdf for the Chilkat River and King Salmon River king salmon stocks can be found at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/RIR.1J.2018.04.pdf for the Unuk River kings.