NOAA Schedules Hearing on Management of Upper Cook Inlet EEZ Salmon Fishery

Image: NOAA.

NOAA Fisheries has announced a public webinar hearing for 5 p.m. Alaska time (6 pm PT) on May 18 to hear comments on amending the fishery management plan (FMP) to establish federal management for salmon fisheries in federal waters off Alaska’s upper Cook Inlet.

NOAA Fisheries officials said they would provide a brief opening statement before accepting public testimony for the record, and that the hearing would be recorded in order to prepare transcripts of all oral comments received.

The hearing is to close 15 minutes after the conclusion of public testimony and after responding to any clarifying questions from hearing participants, concluding no later than 8 p.m. Those wishing to make an oral statement during the public hearing are encouraged to also submit a written statement. The deadline for comment is 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 25.

NOAA officials said they’ll consider written and oral comments received at the public hearing when preparing the amendment and implementing regulations. In the following months, they said, they plan to publish proposed regulations in the Federal Register for a 60-day public comment period.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) first developed the Salmon Fishery Management Plan (FMP) under the Magnuson-Stevens Act over 40 years ago. That FMP excluded designated federal waters in Cook Inlet, which allowed the state of Alaska to manage commercial salmon fishing in the area.

Commercial salmon fishermen and processors challenged exclusion of the Cook Inlet EEZ.

Under a 2016 Ninth Circuit Court ruling and a 2022 summary judgement opinion of the Alaska District Court in UCIDA et al. v. National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA Fisheries must implement an amendment to the salmon FMP by May 1, 2024, to federally manage the salmon fisheries in federal waters of upper Cook Inlet.

The amendment and implementing regulations must be consistent with Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements.

During its April meeting, the NPFMC considered amending the plan for managing the salmon fishery in federal waters of upper Cook Inlet but opted to take no action. Absent that recommendation from the council, NOAA Fisheries is preparing the amendment and implementing regulations pursuant to MSA section 304 (c ) to meet the court deadline.