December 14, 2020
US fishery council forbids commercial salmon fishing in Cook Inlet off Alaska
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which is based in Alaska, the United States, has shut off a large area of Cook Inlet off Alaska to commercial salmon fishing.
The decision came despite oppositions from commercial fishermen and community and state leaders who said the move threatens seafood processors on the Kenai Peninsula and hundreds of fishing operations.
The council accepted a proposal presented by the Alaskan state government in October, to close federal waters starting three miles offshore.
Stretching from Homer to Ninilchik off the southern Kenai Peninsula, the waters are where some boats fish exclusively, fishermen said, and it's where the commercial driftnet fleet typically lands about half its salmon.
The fleet, consisting of more than 500 permit-holders, can continue to fish in state waters within three miles of the shore. However, fishermen said they will have little room left as they cannot go near commercial setnets that can extend up to 1.5 miles off the beach.
Alaska has managed salmon fishing in the waters for decades, but two groups representing commercial fishermen sued to challenge the state's management in 2013, leading the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to mandate a federal takeover in the federal waters by the end of this year.
Two other options before the council — federal oversight and state management with federal oversight — would create dual systems in Cook Inlet as fishermen move from federal- to state-managed waters, and would not support efficient, accurate management, said Rachel Baker, a member of the council representing the state's interests as deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Alaska's position that it would not share management left council members with no good alternatives, the members said, as they did not support sole federal management.
Council members including Nicole Kimball — with the Pacific Seafood Processors Association — acknowledged there would be negative impacts on many Alaskans.
The proposal received more than 250 comments, most from fishermen supporting state-federal management.
- Anchorage Daily News