Summer king season to open July 1, but not without protest

Southeast Alaska salmon trollers will open their season on schedule this Wednesday (7-1-15)  — but under protest. The state says this year’s quota for Alaska fishermen under the Pacific Salmon treaty is too low.

A deadlock at the Pacific Salmon Commission delayed planning for this summer’s king salmon season by months, as representatives from Alaska, Canada, Washington and Oregon wrangled over estimates of chinook abundance.

But on Friday (6-26-15) , the Department of Fish & Game announced that the first king opener of the summer troll season will begin, as usual, on July 1.

This summer’s fishery will be built around a draft abundance index of 1.45 — although Alaska has refused to formally accept that number, declaring it too low.

The Alaska Trollers Association estimates Alaska’s share of king salmon this year at 237,000 fish. That’s slightly below average for the past ten years, and significantly lower than last year’s record quota of nearly 440,000 king salmon.

Trollers say the quota ignores signs that 2015 is another big year. Trollers Association Director Dale Kelley says her members are “beyond frustration” that they may have to watch a banner year for kings swim by. “So, no, we don’t feel like fishermen get a fair shake out of this agreement,” Kelley said. “And really as long as the treaty’s been in place, we never have.”

The abundance index is usually reached through consensus among scientists on the Pacific Salmon Commission’s Chinook Technical Committee. This year, representatives failed to come to an agreement for the first time in over a decade.