The Alaska Board of Fisheries on Monday (3-2-15) took up a pair of proposals to reshape the king salmon troll season in Southeast Alaska.
They rejected one, and adopted the other.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries adjourned on Tuesday (3-3-15) after ten days of meeting in Sitka. The Board will post the full audio from its entire Sitka meeting online in the coming days. You can find that here.
Proposal 223, from Sitka troller John Murray, would have shifted some of the harvest to later in the summer.
The king salmon summer troll season usually has two openings: 70% of the quota is targeted in July, while 30% is reserved for a second opening in August. The proposal would have changed the ratio in higher abundance years to 60% in July, and 40% in August. Supporters argued that a longer August opening would give smaller boats a greater shot at the fish, while kings caught later in the season generally fetch a higher price.
That last point was backed by an assessment from Patti Skannes, of the Department of Fish & Game.
“I do have some statistics on the difference in value between July and August based on fish prices,” Skannes told the Baord. “And the value of the fishery would be estimated to increase approximately 6% if 10% were moved to August from July. So there is likely to be some increase in value.”
But critics argued that a shift would upset a status quo hammered out among trollers two decades ago.
The Board was down to four members during the discussion: John Jensen, of Petersburg, and Reed Morisky, of Fairbanks, recused themselves because of family connections to the troll fishery.
Acting chair Tom Kluberton, of Talkeetna, said he’d heard compelling testimony on both sides of the issue. He said he’d be more willing to upset the existing regime if the proposal came from a wider range of stakeholders.
“I would feel so much better adopting something like this if it came in, in a harmonious concert like that, where multiple voices came together and said, ‘Yep, we put our minds together and we agree on this,'” Kluberton said. “Because…it’s how this area does business. So I’m inclined to not support it, and try to encourage this area to continue to do business that way.”
In the end, the proposal failed, by a vote of 2-2 with members Sue Jeffrey and Fritz Johnson in favor.
Meanwhile, the Board voted 4-0 to approve a proposal from the Alaska Trollers’ Association to add a third potential summer opening for trollers targeting king salmon.
In the current system, there are sometimes fish left under the treaty quota that governs king salmon after the August opener. But the number is usually small enough that if the Department allowed another competitive opening, the fleet would blow past the target. So those fish generally go unharvested. The new regulations allow the Department to open the fishery, but limit each permit-holder to a set number of fish — potentially as few as ten apiece.
Dale Kelley, of the Alaska Trollers Association, said that even at low numbers, it would be worth it to mop up any final quota.
“So there may still be a few left on the table, but our hope is, we’ll take every fish that we possibly can under the quota,” she said. “It’s really important to get our treaty quota.”
That’s because king salmon generally make up about half the value of the troll fishery each year, Kelley said. And besides, she said, “pulling a king salmon over the rail is why you are a troller.”