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By Dan Rudy 

Board of Fish votes to keep Dungeness management plan

 


Meeting in Wrangell last week, the Alaska Board of Fisheries elected to maintain the current Southeast Alaska Area Dungeness Crab Fisheries Management Plan. A trio of policy proposals would have repealed the plan and its early closure thresholds, returning management of the fishery to size, sex and season, as used elsewhere.

“I understand the reason this proposal was put forward,” board member John Jensen said of Proposal 58. “Size, sex and season has been a very good way to manage fisheries for a long, long period of time in Southeast,” he explained.

The current management plan establishes threshold harvest guidelines that determine the length of season. If thresholds are not reached, indicating the stocks are low, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would then curtail the fishery.

ADFG biologist Joe Stratman explained the management plan “is a useful tool that allows (ADFG) to assess early in the season whether a recruitment failure has occurred.” He told the board his department was opposed to the plan’s repeal.

Proposal 58 criticized the accuracy of the management plan’s methods in making that determination. Another criticism is its utility. Since being instituted in 2000, the mechanism has only affected the crabbing fishery once, for a week in 2013.

“A lot of those low catch numbers could be artificial sometimes and get the season closed early because of lack of participation. That’s one of my concerns,” said Jensen.

He said that if the plan were repealed, ADFG would still maintain the ability to close the season early if the need arises, but the decision would not be based upon set thresholds.

Board member Tom Kluberton spoke up in support of maintaining the current Southeast Dungeness management plan.

“I appreciate member Jensen’s comments regarding the potential for light participation at the beginning of the season

skewing the results of the tiers,” he said. “I also recall

testimony to the effect that one of the major advantages that Alaska fishermen have in this fishery is that they do get a jump on that market.”

He suggested the premium prices for early-season crab

act as an incentive for participation. “I think if we see light participation it wouldn’t be at the front end of the season because of the potential price benefit.”

Kluberton pointed out that although sex, size and season management may work in other states, the current management plan has safeguards built into it that work to Alaska’s overall benefit.

After discussion, board members voted 1 to 6 against repealing the Dungeness management plan, with Jensen in favor of the proposal. Following that, the board chose to take no action on proposals 59 and 60, which were similarly aimed.

The proposals were some of the 56 the Fisheries Board came to Wrangell on Jan. 21 to discuss, dealing specifically with crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish policies in Southeast and Yakutat. Though initially scheduled to last six days, the meeting proceeded ahead of schedule, wrapping up by Saturday morning.

The board’s stated role is to conserve and develop the

fishery resources of the state, by setting seasons, bag limits, methods, means and other

regulations for Alaska’s subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fisheries.

To that end, it uses

biological and economic data provided by ADFG, comments received from the public, and guidance from the state law and public safety departments to make its decisions.

Information on the different proposals and full audio of the meeting are available online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo&date=01-21-2015&meeting=wrangell.

Before the week’s meetings began, board chair Karl Johnstone announced his

resignation, to take place after the Wrangell hearings concluded. Gov. Bill Walker has since appointed Roland Maw to take Johnstone’s place on the board through the end of his remaining term in June. The appointment will need to pass through the Legislature to take effect.

The Fisheries Board is next scheduled to meet in Sitka Feb. 23 through March 3, to discuss 119 Southeast and Yakutat

finfish management proposals.

 

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