The Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) triennial Upper Cook Inlet (UCI) Finfish meeting will be held at the Egan Civic Center in Anchorage, lasting 14 days from Friday, January 31 through Thursday, February 13, 2014. The BOF reviews fishery policy and management plans for 15 regional and statewide fisheries in Alaska on a three year cycle. The BOF policies and management plans set conservation objectives to ensure the sustainability of fisheries and allocates the available harvestable surplus to user groups. The BOF is an open, public process that is driving by proposals that can be submitted by anyone. Public involvement is encouraged through written and oral comment as well as participation in a committee review process during the BOF meetings, at the end of which the seven member board votes on each proposal.
Of the 15 regional and statewide fishery meetings that the BOF deals with every three years, the UCI region is unique in a couple of important ways:
- UCI finfish meeting tends to be the longest on the three year meeting schedule, which reflects the multifaceted nature of fisheries management in UCI. The UCI fisheries are some of the most complex fisheries in the world to manage; they are a fully allocated resource with various competing user groups (subsistence, personal use, sport and commercial) utilizing the many mixed stocks of salmon (kings, reds, coho, chums and pinks) from the Kenai Peninsula, the west side of Cook Inlet, Anchorage and the Mat-Su, as well as numerous resident species.
- Fishing, as elsewhere in Alaska, is big business for Cook Inlet: according to economic surveys, the region generates an estimated $1 billion annually to the local economy. The unique feature about the fisheries in Cook Inlet is the relative proportions of recreational and commercial fishing: 80 percent of economic values are generated from the sport and personal use fisheries while 20 percent come from commercial fisheries, unlike any other region in the state.
UCI is home to the state’s largest sport and personal use fisheries, and is the largest population center in Alaska. Sport and personal use fishing is heavily concentrated in the region, and the economic, social, recreational, cultural and food values associated with these activities are very substantial. By contrast, commercial fisheries in UCI yield a small fraction of the state’s overall commercial harvest and the associated economic values are modest.
For the upcoming 2014 UCI meeting, there are 236 proposals under consideration for changes to the fishery management plans that regulate UCI fisheries. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) website is a convenient place to see all the relevant meeting information, such as the agenda and roadmap as well as department and public comments when they become available. During the meeting, you can follow along through online through the audio link if you are unable to attend in person.
Leading up to the 2014 UCI BOF meeting, we will examine on the KRSA fish blog the multitude of proposals and issues that are under consideration. KRSA has submitted 12 proposals for deliberation. Of primary focus for us at the meeting will be the issue of low numbers of returning king salmon to the Kenai River and Cook Inlet, and how best to manage for this scarcity of a prized resource.
KRSA has initiated a “Save our Kenai Kings” effort to educate people on the critical nature of the Kenai River king salmon, and offer an easy method to comment to the BOF on this central topic for the upcoming meeting. To get started, please see our video, review the fact sheet, and the take action.