Board of Fish considers Arctic proposals

(Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)
(Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is meeting in Fairbanks this week. The board has reviewed proposals for the Yukon and Kuskokwim fisheries and will review those for the Arctic.

There were over 20 proposals for the Yukon, 15 for the Kuskokwim, while the Arctic fishery, which includes Norton Sound and Port Clarence, had just six.

Jim Menard, the Arctic Area Manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, says that’s because of the year they’ve had.

“We’ve had really good fishing here the last several years,” Menard said. “This past year was the greatest silver catch ever in the commercial fishery and chum was one of the best since the 80s, or was the best since the 80s, so our commercial harvest has been good.”

Menard says the requested changes are “pretty straightforward.” There were four subsistence proposals, one boundary proposal, and one commercial fishery proposal.

The Southern Norton Sound Fish and Game Advisory Committee submitted the sole commercial proposal, requesting the use of beach seines. The committee argues that beach seines allow for the selective harvest of surplus pinks and chums, while minimizing the incidental harvest of king salmon.

The conservation of king salmon was also the theme of the subsistence proposals. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is requesting the ability to restrict gillnet sizes in the areas south of Unalakleet. As of now, Fish and Game is limited to either keeping it open or closing subsistence fishing entirely in times of conservation.

“But another tool in our box would be if we could reduce the mesh size while still keeping it open down in Stebbins and St Michael for those people who subsistence fish and still be able to protect king salmon that were bound for Yukon River or northern Norton Sound drainages,” Menard said.

There were two citizen-submitted proposals, one requesting the use of cast nets in the region’s subsistence fishery, noting the low cost, ease of use, and ability to fish selectively. The second had little to do with gear restrictions and more to do with timing.

“It just expands the fishing periods in the Nome subdistrict so that when the weather is more conducive to catching fish and drying fish that we can have extended hours to do so,” Thomas Sparks, the proposal’s author, explained.

Finally, the Board will review the sole boundary proposal, which would change Norton Sound’s southern boundary with the Yukon fishery. The current boundary extends directly west out of Point Romanof, while the proposed boundary would extend northwest from the same point.

The Board of Fisheries will review the Arctic’s commercial, subsistence and boundary proposals on Thursday and will then vote on all of Western Alaska’s fishery proposals on Friday.