CDA Board Member John Siegfreid and I attended the December meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries in Cordova. I'm happy to report that no regulations negatively affecting the Chitina Personal Use fishery were passed. The CDA's one beneficial proposal was denied.
Multiple proposals that would have restricted dipnetting from a boat in the Personal Use (PU) and subsistence fisheries were not approved — boat fishing may continue with no new restrictions. The proposal prohibiting the use of gillnet mesh in dipnets failed. The proposal to lower the current PU bag limit, which CDA got put in place at the 2014 BOF meeting, failed. The proposal to require mandatory online reporting of PU salmon within 3 days of the time of harvest also failed.
Notably, the proposal to reduce the PU allocation from the existing 100,000-150,000 salmon to 50,000 if, by June 1, the commercial harvest is 50% below the 10 year average failed. I stressed to the Board of Fish that most recent commercial drift net harvest restrictions have been in place because of low king salmon numbers. Drift nets indiscriminately catch salmon and kings suffer a high mortality rate in them. Restrictions on the commercial fleet to protect king salmon could easily trigger the allocation reduction in our Personal Use fishery even if the sockeye run is outstanding. The PU fishery should stay open to harvest sockeyes, as dipnetters can release kings immediately, most times unharmed.
The CDA's single proposal before the BOF this year, proposal 18, would have extended the lower boundary of the PU fishery to relieve boat congestion and possible dangerous conditions in a short, crowded area at the very bottom of the fishery area. We twice amended the proposal to alleviate concerns brought forward by ADF&G staff comments, but it failed to pass. The proposal vote was on track to pass except our own Fairbanks BOF representative McKenzie Mitchell, who CDA endorsed in appointment and confirmation, voted against it. Her reasoning was that boat dipnetters could relieve the boat congestion at the lower limit by pulling up their nets and drifting farther down the river before heading back upstream. It made no sense.
The only major change to the subsistence fishery in the Glennallen District upstream of the McCarthy bridge was the elimination of paid charter operators such as Alaska Expeditions and Copper River Wild. They must now operate solely in the PU fishery.
The paired burden of king salmon conservation set at the 2011 BOF meeting, with the commercial fleet being restricted to only one 12 hour period inside the barrier islands in each of their first weekly openings and the PU fishery opening June 7-14 instead of, as it was prior to 2011, June 1, did not change.
Without CDA's representation at the BOF meeting, which is paid for with members' annual dues and merchandise sales (shop.chitinadipnetters.com), the proposals and public testimony placing restrictions on the Chitina Personal Use Fishery would have been unchallenged, much to the detriment of dipnetters.
Thank you for your continued support!
Chuck Derrick, Pres.
Chitina Dipnetters Association