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Fish News

Southeast Habitat Protection

SEAGO is proud to have signed on to two Southeast campaigns to protect our salmon habitat within the Tongass National Forest: T77 and maintaining Forest Service management of Tongass lands.  By supporting these efforts, SEAGO joins individuals, conservation groups, commercial fishing vessels, and businesses across Southeast Alaska working to permanently protect the habitat in these key areas.  We, as part of these efforts, emphasize that:

Guided and unguided sportfishing contributes millions of dollars to the economies of Southeast Alaska, the State, and the country.  The sportfishing tradition relies on public access, multiple use management, and healthy habitats.  For businesses to succeed into the 21st century, we must work together to maintain and restore healthy fish and wildlife habitat and make this a high priority in managing the Tongass National Forest.

T77: American Salmon Forest, with Trout Unlimited, has focused our federal government’s eyes on the areas within the Tongass which are vital to the salmon and trout our businesses rely on.  The over 70 watersheds in Southeast Alaska which are currently open to harmful development must be permanently off-limits to those activities while still allowing existing access and uses, such as sport fishing.  More information and a list of supporters can be found here.

Land Management: Groups are pressing Congress to sell or transfer federal lands into private or State hands for development activities, including logging and mining.  These efforts are in addition to threats to reduce Forest Service funding and access to effective management tools.  If they succeed, we will see cuts to public access, elimination of sustainability measures, harm to habitat, and more. SEAGO has signed this petition to tell Congress and our Alaska delegation that these areas must remain protected.  To sign on with us, click HERE.

Taku & Chilkat River Chinook Salmon Symposium

Last night’s Taku & Chilkat River Chinook Salmon Symposium, hosted by Territorial Sportsmen at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, was well attended by Juneau locals wondering what’s going on with our kings.

The overarching answer? We have no clue.

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Despite having 24 years of full stock assessment data, some of the only defensible wild king salmon data in existence, the closest answer science can provide is that there has been a significant drop in marine survival in the critical first few months to a year at sea. It might be predators, water temperature changes, fishing, or any number of interactive causes. The complex and highly variable migration patterns of kings once they hit the ocean doesn’t help us much, either.20170413_192505

The final forecast: it’s going to be a grim couple of years for all of us. We need to band together and look at creative management, research opportunities, and other ways to get over the hump.

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Thanks to Alaska Department of Fish and Game – Official, DIPAC’s Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, & NOAA Fisheries Alaska for speaking and spending their evening answering everyone’s tough questions!

2017 Halibut Catch Limits

U44:O80, NO Annual Limit

The news you have all been waiting for is this season’s catch allocation.  At the December Council meeting, we suggested that Southeast management measures at the Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR) or higher not have an annual limit, and have a reverse slot limit of O80 and a lower limit of U40 or higher.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) held its Annual Meeting this week in Vancouver, British Columbia, to determine catch for 2017.  The amount allocated for guided sportfishing is 915,000lbs, resulting in the above described suggested management measure taking effect.  Based on the ADFG analysis, the IPHC-approved final measure is a reverse slot limit of U44:O80 and no annual limit.  The overall catch for 2C, divided between commercial and guided sportfishing, is 5,250,000.  This is after unguided sport, subsistence, and bycatch are removed from the equation.

This is great news, as the two harvest policy suggestions implied that 2C catch would be reduced slightly for 2017.  This implied reduction confused many people in 2C, where the charter sector came in 13% under its allocation in 2016.  The IPHC staff explained during the Annual Meeting that while the overall stock has remained steady, area 2C decisions must also take into account stock distribution.  The percentage of the halibut stock in Area 2 has decreased slightly this year to 2015 levels, creating the implied reduction at the earlier IPHC meeting.

Area 3A management measures for 2017 are as follows:

  • 2 fish daily bag limit, with one fish less than or equal to 28″
  • 3 closed Tuesdays between July 18-Aug 1
  • Closed Wednesdays
  • Status quo trip limits of 1 per day
  • 4 fish annual limit

“The Blue Line is a tool that has outlived its usefulness.” -Paul Ryall, Canadian IPHC Commissioner

For those of you who have followed the IPHC decision process, the term “blue line” might be a familiar, and frustrating, one.  Tuesday’s meeting began with a review of the existing Harvest Policy and Blue Line numbers, calling the policy outdated, overly complicated, inconsistent, and frequently misunderstood.  Staff and Advisory Boards are reviewing alternative policy approaches, including one based on the Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR).  During the comments section, Commissioner Ryall received a round of applause when he said he would be fine with never referring to the blue line again.

This overhaul is in addition to positive advancements in surveys and stock assessments, resulting in more accurate survey results and weighing of various stock modeling methods.  We are excited to see where the IPHC will go from here, and what other improvements they are making for the future!

2017 Legislative Session

SEAGO is following fisheries and budget bills to keep you informed.  As of this week, there are no bills proposed which directly affect the charter sector.  Other Fisheries bills are described below.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries has requested that the Legislature review the permitting process for activities affecting streams determined to be fish habitat.  These activities are projects that use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow of a body of water.  Right now, permits are typically granted within four days, and can be issued unless the activity fails to provide sufficient, proper protection for fish and game.  This means that residents may be unaware when permits are granted in their area and are unable to comment before a permit is granted.

The request for the Legislature is to update standards for proper protection of fish and game, public notice requirements, and the public comment process.  The Legislature has not yet taken this request under consideration.

Proposed Fisheries Bills:

Bill Number Description Sponsor Status
HB 14 Requiring specific findings before Legislative approval of large scale Bristol Bay sulfide mines Rep. Josephson (H)FSH
HB 17 Establishing a Fish & Game Conservation Program and Fund Rep. Josephson (H)RES
HB 29 Banning the sale of genetically modified fish Rep. Tarr (H)FSH
HB 32 Requiring the labeling of genetically modified food Rep. Tarr (H)RES
HB 46 Increasing state and local procurement preference for locally harvested agricultural and fisheries products and allowing for sale of non-pasteurized milk products Rep. Tarr (H)STA
HB 56 Increasing the total balance of borrower limitation on certain commercial fishing loans from $300k to $400k Rep. Ortiz (H)FSH
HB 63 Transferring the duties of the fisheries revolving loan funds, processing license bonds, and others from the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development to Department of Revenue Rep. Pruitt (H)STA

HB = House Bill

Sponsor = Legislator who proposed the bill

Status = Committee the bill would be heard in next

(H) = House committee

FSH = Fisheries Committee

RES = Resources Committee

STA = State Affairs Committee

2017 Guide Licensing & Registration Changes

You might have received an e-mail from ADFG Sport Fish Division noting that saltwater licensing is back in place, with associated fees supporting the work of our Sport Fish Division, and freshwater guides/businesses are still required to register.  This change relates to legislative action last year that SEAGO worked on with legislators and staff.

When certain programs are voted into law by the legislature, they include a date at which the program ends, called a sunset date.  Typically, if the program is intended to continue, a new bill is proposed to the legislature before the sunset date, which either changes the sunset date or makes the program permanent.  A couple of years ago, due to a small oversight and political complications, the guide licensing program hit its sunset date without being renewed.

The proposed legislation to restart the guide licensing program, known as House Bill 41 (HB 41), updated the licensing fees, which had been stagnant for many years and provide important support for ADFG Department of Sport Fish.  HB 41 was amended as it went through legislative committees.  One of these amendments removed its application to freshwater-only guides.  The final version of the law reinstating the licensing program therefore only applies to saltwater guide operations.

SEAGO Executive Director Samantha Weinstein and former Executive Director Ryan Mackinster participated in advancing this legislation, and helped avoid other, problematic proposed amendments.  SEAGO staff participates on your behalf through public comment opportunities, work with legislative staff, discussions with Legislators, and discussion with ADFG staff.  The more you connect with SEAGO, the better we can convey your thoughts during these discussions.

Currently, we agree with ADFG Sport Fish that immediately advancing the freshwater guide licensing is not necessary for the success of the Department.  We are excited that guided operations are again providing more support for the success of the Department’s research and projects.

Mixing Guided & Unguided Halibut on Vessels

The Council is meeting next week, with one guided sportfishing issue on the agenda.  The issue is possession of mixed guided and unguided halibut on a single fishing vessel, and was raised by the Enforcement Committee.  This issue has the potential to affect mixed-use motherships, floating lodges, rental boats, water taxis, and floating docks with mixed-use processing on the dock.  SEAGO’s main concern is the lack of data on this issue, and the relation to Board of Fish proposals in 2009.

Per the short discussion paper written for the Council, there is no data on:

  • The number of boardings by Enforcement where mixed halibut were possessed.
  • The number of businesses offering multi-day, mixed-use trips.
  • The number of businesses operating mixed-use motherships.
  • The number of businesses allowing missed-use fishing directly off a mothership or floating lodge.
  • The number of businesses operating mixed-use floating lodges where fish are mixed, before or after returning to the lodge.
  • The number of businesses which might be affected by any actions taken on this issue.

Before the Council attempts to analyze this issue, we need to know the way things are, the status quo.  Without a status quo, we cannot know the scope of the problem, or whether there is in fact a problem!  Without the status quo, we cannot meaningfully comment on any actions because we do not know which or how businesses will be affected.

The proposed solutions to this unknown problem are 1) to prohibit simultaneous possession of guided and unguided halibut on any vessel or 2) to require that guided management measures apply to all fish if any are possessed simultaneously.  While SEAGO is not opposed to regulations when necessary, these actions should not be taken without knowledge of whether there is, in fact, a problem, and how the actions would address the problem.

SEAGO is also concerned with the difference between motherships or floating lodges and any other facility used for processing both guided and unguided halibut.  In 2009, the Board of Fisheries received three proposals suggesting that the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADFG) and/or the Department of Public Safety (DPS) should have access to vessels, lodges, and land-based or floating processors for inspection.  These proposals raised constitutional concerns, and were rejected by ADFG and the Board.  ADFG comments noted the existing regulatory requirements and those for complying with the Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) as reasons the honor system has largely worked for regulating the industry.

The NPFMC prides itself on its science-based management.  The lack of data on this issue combined with the concerns noted above lead SEAGO to question whether this issue is ripe for discussion by the Council.  We suggest that the Council delay discussion until there is hard data to consider.

Electronic Monitoring of the Commercial Fleets

Management decisions rely on accurate accounting of commercial fisheries’ retained and discarded catch.  In Alaska’s fixed gear groundfish and halibut fisheries, this is done through the North Pacific Observer Program.  The Council has been working with the NMFS and industry members to develop an Electronic Monitoring (EM) system since 2013.  The goal is to integrate the EM system into the human observer program, to cover vessels 40-57.5 feet long, which cannot easily or safely fit an extra person on board.  In the long run, using EM could reduce the various costs associated with human observers.

The EM Workgroup is in the process of testing EM systems and figuring out how well they work with the fleets.  The EM system is comprised of digital cameras, gear sensors, GPS receivers, and a data control center.  Cameras are triggered by gear sensors to record catch, all of which must be handled within view of the camera.  Back in the data control center, staff review sensor and video data to determine the completeness of video data and record species caught or discarded.  This data can then be used to estimate catch and for in-season management.

EM development is moving forward quickly thanks to the hard work of the Council, agency staff, and the workgroup.  It is very important to everyone involved in fisheries work that our biggest users have their catch and bycatch accounted for in the most accurate way possible.  In the best case scenario, a joint observer/EM monitoring program will be in place by 2018.  Tune in to October’s Council meeting to hear the development of the Workgroup’s plans.

ADF&G Electronic Reporting

This summer, ADFG is running the pilot program for its freshwater electronic logbook, to much reported success.

Getting the Info

The logbook itself collects information the Board of Fish and the NPFMC use to make allocation and management decisions for Chinook salmon, rockfish, lingcod, and halibut.  Typically, guides complete paper logbook pages and send them in to ADFG to review.  Over the course of the next month or two, ADFG staff enters the logbook information into their data system.  In the case of saltwater logbooks, pages are scanned in; software is applied to recognize, extract, and categorize the information; and staff review unrecognizable sections.  Freshwater paper logbooks are scanned and manually entered (for the moment).

Electronic Reporting

ADFG hopes an electronic reporting option will streamline reporting and data entry, and be less burdensome on guides.  Participants in the freshwater testing and pilot programs downloaded an electronic logbook application to their smartphones, which they use to enter all logbook information over the course of the guided excursions.  The program does not require internet connectivity to use; it only requires a connection to upload information.  In response to guide feedback, ADFG wants to eventually update the application for even easier use.  One of the possibilities includes retaining information for specific guides, clients, or fishing locations within the application so that it can be entered with only a few key strokes.

When saltwater testing of the application begins over the fall, participants will complete both the paper logbook and the electronic application on either a smartphone or tablet.  2017 will see the beginning of the saltwater pilot program, where participating guides can opt to only use the electronic application.  For those of you interested in electronic reporting, a few extra minutes of your time means accurate information is available a month or two earlier than it is currently available.  In the long run, this is great for our fisheries.  Furthermore, by participating in testing or the pilot program, you can make suggestions and help advance this application for your own ease of use.

If you would like to participate in the testing or pilot program, e-mail SEAGO at director@seagoalaska.org.

Skagway Pullen Creek & Pond King Fishery

This emergency order opens Skagway’s Pullen Creek and Pullen Pond to king salmon fishing and establishes a bag and possession limit of four king salmon of any size for all anglers (both Alaska residents and nonresidents). King salmon caught in Pullen Creek and Pullen Pond do not count toward the nonresident annual limit.
REGULATION: The provisions of 5 AAC 47.023. Special provisions for seasons, bag, possession, annual, and size limits, and methods and means for fresh waters of the Southeast Alaska Area. (d)(2)(C) are added by this emergency order. Under this emergency order, the following provisions are effective:  2:01 a.m. Saturday, July 16 through 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, September 14, 2016.
5 AAC 47.023. Special provisions for seasons, bag, possession, annual, and size limits, and methods and means for the fresh waters of Southeast Alaska Area.
(d) In the Skagway vicinity:
(2) in Pullen Creek and Pullen Pond,
(C) the bag and possession limit is four king salmon, no size limit, no nonresident annual limit;

JUSTIFICATION: Hatchery produced king salmon resulting from releases at Pullen Creek will return to Pullen Creek and no broodstock will be collected this year. Regulations liberalizing bag, possession, and annual limits are therefore modified according to provisions in 5 AAC 47.055 (k) and 5 AAC
75.003 (2) (B) to allow harvest of these excess king salmon by sport anglers.
DISTRIBUTION: The distribution list for this emergency order is on file at the Region 1 Office of Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Sport Fish, P. 0. Box 110024, Douglas, AK 99824, (907) 465-4270

REDOUBT BAY AND LAKE SUBSISTENCE AND SPORT SOCKEYE SALMON FISHERY

Sitka: The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that effective 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 15, 2016, harvest limits in the Redoubt Bay and Lake subsistence and sport fisheries will be increased. The individual/household possession limit of subsistence sockeye salmon at Redoubt Bay and Lake will be 25 sockeye salmon and the individual/household annual limit will be 100 sockeye salmon. The sport fish bag and possession limit will be 6 sockeye salmon.
The Redoubt Lake weir, operated by the U.S. Forest Service, was installed and operational on June 10, 2016. As of July 14, 7,801 sockeye have been counted through the weir. Based on historic run timing, the projected escapement for the 2016 season exceeds 30,000 sockeye salmon.
The Redoubt Bay and Lake Sockeye Salmon Management Plan provides management provisions for subsistence, sport, and commercial fisheries that harvest Redoubt Lake sockeye salmon based on an optimal escapement goal of 7,000 to 25,000 fish. The plan directs ADF&G to establish a subsistence individual/household possession limit of 25 sockeye salmon and an annual limit of 100 sockeye salmon, and a sport fish bag and possession limit of 6 sockeye salmon if the projected total escapement is greater than 30,000 sockeye salmon. Fishermen are reminded that no person may possess subsistence-taken and sport-taken salmon on the same day.
The emergency orders corresponding with this news release are: 1-S-45-16 and 1-RS-D-22-16.
News releases web site: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=cfnews.main.