Fisheries Board adopts new king salmon management plan for next year

The Alaska Board of Fisheries has adopted a revised king salmon Southeast management plan in a compromise that will see sport fishery limits set before the start of the season based on a tiered system of abundance instead of changing during the season.

The revised plan is expected to be in place by the 2023 season.

The hope is that the 80/20 split between the commercial troll and sport fisheries will be maintained, while allowing non-residents who travel to Alaska to catch king salmon the opportunity to do so, rather than being shut down at a cost to the local economy.

“In this plan the caveat there is when we’re at those low-abundance tiers, the sport fishery is likely going to exceed the allocation of that 20%, but at high-abundance tiers they’re going to greatly be under their allocation and so, over time, it should result in roughly maintaining that 80/20,” said Patrick Fowler, the Petersburg-Wrangell area manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries approved the new plan at its March meeting.

According to the newly revised plan, king salmon bag and possession limits in Southeast will be divided into seven tiers. The tier designation each season will be based on the winter troll fishery catch per unit effort in District 13, the outside waters of Baranof and Chichagof islands, which Fowler said is used as an indicator of abundance.

Under the plan, resident sportfishermen will not have an annual limit but will have a daily bag limit of one king when abundance is tighter under Tiers 2 and 3, a daily bag limit of two during Tiers 4 and 5 years, and a daily bag limit of three in Tiers 6 and 7.

Non-residents will be limited to a daily bag limit of one king in Tiers 2 through 7 and will see a decrease in their annual limit as the season goes on.

Non-residents will begin the year with an annual limit of three, which will eventually drop to one depending on the selected tier, with drops occurring on July 1, 8 and 16.

The limits for Tier 1, the lowest abundance level, are to be determined.

The compromise is that if there is an unused portion of the sport allocation, Fish and Game can transfer it to the troll fishery.

“In those high abundance tiers, it’s a significant number of fish that the troll fishery will catch that the sport fishery is forgoing harvest on, but the benefit they get is stable, consistent regulations, which is important for the charter businesses,” Fowler said. The charter business is important to Southeast’s economy.

The board also defined a priority for resident anglers so that there will be no closures for residents unless required for conservation purposes or to comply with the Pacific Salmon Treaty, according to Fowler.

The change to consistent regulations, however, does not mean that Fish and Game will not be monitoring the sport fishery during the season.

“We don’t expect to change the sport fish regulations in-season, but we’re still collecting information and projecting forward our harvest so we know how many fish we can tell the troll fleet that it can harvest ... if the sport fishery is under their allocation so we’re still monitoring the harvest by all users,” Fowler said.


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