The state’s fisheries board wrapped up two weeks of meetings on Upper Cook Inlet commercial and sports fisheries late last week. And the dust is settling around the various user groups who have stakes in the fisheries.
This session, management changes were approved for Kenai River early and late king runs, and for the central district sockeye management plan.
Supporters of the changes say that the new regulations are expected to allow more salmon, kings, and coho, specifically, to pass through the inlet into the northern district and into the river drainages of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Larry Engle is with the borough’s Fish and Wildlife Commission.
But those opposed to the changes say that commercial driftnetters and setnetters will be hurt, and that they have suffered a disproportionate hit in fishing time and area.
Paul Dale, president of the Kenai-based Alaska Salmon Alliance (ASA), said commercial fishers have taken a significant allocation shift, and ASA has issued a statement questioning the efficacy of the board process.
The board’s actions move the drift fleet to areas nearer to the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers and their rich sockeye runs, allowing northern-bound sockeye and coho to get by drift fleet nets.
But opponents of that plan say the board did not stand up to the recreational fishing lobby, and they claim many of the problems in the Cook Inlet salmon fisheries come from in-river sports and dipnet fishing, because the population of the Anchorage and Mat Su areas has grown over the past decade, and so has the pressure on Cook Inlet salmon stocks.