NOAA Fisheries Issues Final Rule on Cook Inlet EEZ

Image: NOAA Fisheries.

NOAA Fisheries on April 29 announced publication of the final rule implementing federal management of commercial salmon fishing in the Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone Area.

Under federal management, which goes into effect 30 days after publication, commercial fishing vessels must obtain a federal permit, maintain a fishing logbook, have a vessel monitoring system (VMS) installed on their vessels, and comply with all other federal regulations laid out in the final rule.

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) uses VMS in most federally managed fisheries in Alaska. NOAA Alaska spokeswoman Julie Fair said that the VMS requirement will be new for many Cook Inlet drift gillnet vessels that choose to fish in the EEZ fishery.

“NMFS uses VMS to provide vessel location to make sure vessels are fishing in the correct area. Observers can also provide location data, along with other biological data,” Farr said. “At this time, NMFS is not requiring observers for the salmon fishery in the Cook Inlet EEZ Area.”

In addition, processors and buyers receiving delivery of salmon commercially caught in the Cook Inlet EEZ area must obtain a federal permit, report deliveries using the eLanding system and comply with all other federal regulations included in the final rule.

To assist stakeholders in complying with the new regulations, NOAA Fishers has scheduled public meetings at the Quality Inn conference room in Kenai, Alaska from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. May 15 and at the Best Western Bidarka Inn in Homer, Alaska at the same time on May 16.

NOAA Fisheries is also hosting on online webinar from 10 a.m. to noon on May 22. The video call link is The dial in is 1 929-324-9506 PIN: ‪148 365 993#

NOAA Fisheries said the agency developed this action to address a Ninth Circuit Court ruling requiring federal management of salmon fishing in the Cook Inlet EEZ area in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and a district court ruling requiring publication of a final rule for management of the Cook Inlet EEZ area by May 1.

Meanwhile, United Cook Inlet Drift Association is challenging state management of Cook Inlet EEZ in Federal district court in Anchorage. The case is scheduled to be heard June 7.