The Alaska Board of Fish has narrowly voted down a request for additional restrictions on commercial harvest of Copper River king salmon. At a meeting Wednesday, the panel voted 4 to 3 against an emergency petition from the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory committee.
Only 29,000 kings are forecast to return to the Copper River this year, and commercial fishers are allocated 70 percent of a 5,000 king harvest quota.
Board member Reed Morisky of Fairbanks contended the weak return and harvest break down, constitute an emergency.
”We have basically 5,000 kings that we’re trying to split up between the commercial sport PU and subsistence communities and I’m very concerned that the equity is not there,” Morisky said.
Upriver subsistence users will be limited to two kings, while personal use dip netters cannot keep any, and the king sport fishy is closed. Commercial fishermen are also facing restrictions on the Copper River Delta, and Fish Board chair John Jensen of Petersburg said the situation is not an emergency.
”I think the department’s handling is cut way back on everybody, not just one user group over another,” Jensen said.
The restricted commercial harvest is just getting underway, and board member Orville Huntington of Huslia advised deferring to state managers until the panel formally takes up Copper River issues later this year.
Copper River salmon management proposals will be considered during a Board of Fish meeting on Prince William Sound fin fish issues, December 1st through the 5th in Valdez.
Update: This story has been corrected to reflect that the Board of Fish decision was made on Wednesday, not Thursday.