NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule to implement federal management of commercial and recreational salmon fishing in Alaska’s Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone. NOAA published the proposed rule in the Federal Register on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Previously, salmon management in the federal waters was deferred to the state of Alaska and fishing occurred without respect for the EEZ boundary. Amendment 16 and the proposed rule would result in separate federal management of salmon fishing in the Cook Inlet EEZ, with the state continuing to manage all salmon fishing within state waters.
Federal management would implement new requirements for commercial drift gillnet vessels that are fishing in the Cook Inlet EEZ, which would occur from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays.
The fishery would begin on or after June 19 each year and last until Aug. 15 or when the total allowable catch (TAC) is harvested.
Commercial fishing vessels would have to obtain a federal permit, maintain a fishing logbook and have a vessel monitoring system installed on their vessels. But such vessels would not be allowed to participate in the federal fishery at the same time they’re harvesting in the state water fishery.
Processors and buyers receiving deliveries of salmon commercially caught in the Cook Inlet EEZ would have to obtain a federal permit. They would also have to report deliveries using the eLandings system.
If approved, the proposed action would be in effect for the 2024 salmon fishing season.
NOAA officials said Amendment 16 was developed to address a Ninth Circuit Court ruling requiring federal management of salmon in the Cook Inlet EEZ in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
The notice of availability and proposed rule to implement Amendment 16 is available online at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/10/19/2023-22747/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-cook-inlet-salmon-amendment-16.
The public comment period on Amendment 16 is expected to remain open for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.
Comments can be addressed to: Gretchen Harrington, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, and identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2023-0065.
Comments can also be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/10/19/2023-22747/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-cook-inlet-salmon-amendment-16, or mailed to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.