For Trollers Proposal 83 is probably the most important proposal at the 2022 BOF. In Proposal 83 SEAGO (Southeast Alaska Guides Organization) seeks to “borrow” fish from trollers during low quota years and pay them back in high abundance years. If this passes Trollers will lose more fish.
Stocks of Concern (SOC) have been with us for three years. We anticipate SOC management to continue for at least 3 more years. At this BOF the Taku and the Stikine Chinook stocks are being declared SOC. In spite of this Sport Chinook harvest is still being allowed in the spring (when SOC are running) in Western Icy Straights. Icy Straights is the main inside migration corridor for Taku Chinook. At the same time Sport is also harvesting SOC in Sumner Straights, the main migration corridor for Stikine Chinook.
- During the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) negotiations all gear groups were represented. All groups agreed to the new treaty. This includes the SEAGO President and Vice-President who were on the Northern Panel of the PST and were instrumental in developing the 2019 Agreement. Charters, as every other group, need to comply with the new regulations and manage within their allotted quota.
- The SEAK Troll fishery is high percentage Alaska resident (85%). Most SEAK charter skippers, lodge owners, and their clients are out of state residents.
- In the 2021 season, even though State Regs recommend a Tier 4 (the 2021 Tier) three Chinook out-of-state annual bag limit from March to July 1, the Department set the bag limit at 4. This made the SEAK sport harvest curve unsustainable at the Tier 4 level (37,879 fish). Unlike in 2020 SEAK Charter Lodges were advertising complete booking as early as March. Because of the predictable resulting increase in sport harvest ADF&G closed SEAK Out-of-State retention of Chinook (from August 1st to August 31st). Harvest reopened later but ended 944 sport kings short.
- Historically Trollers Ocean fished kings 365 days a year. Now we have a reduced ocean fishery of around 20 days (in a good year). Trollers also can Winter fish in inside waters 150 days. Because of SOC Trollers have lost six weeks of Winter fishing. SOC has also greatly reduced hatchery fishing time and area.
- Meanwhile Sports (Charters) have enjoyed continual industry growth on a declining resource. Unlike Commercial fishermen Charters have no limited entry. It’s time for Charters to experience sustainable fishing not limitless growth.
- Changing the management plan during SOC with a lawsuit threating sport and commercial harvest seems like a bad idea. The Treaty CPUE Model is still an experiment. Hopefully SOC management is temporary. A lot of things can change in the future and at this time there is no King quota shortage for sports.
- March 3, 2021 ADF&G Commissioner Doug Vincent Lang (DVL) issued an Emergency Order creating an all-time record for spring non-resident annual bag limit (4 King Salmon before July 10). This was above the sports King Salmon management plan level (5AAC 47.0555) which recommends 3 fish until June 30 then going down to 2 Kings.
- Sport Division’s reasoning for the extraordinary 4 fish annual limit was a Covid caused low sports effort. In March of 2021 lodges were already reporting high client demand. In 2018 and 2019 the low sport harvest was due to SOC management that closed inside waters until June 15. Covid was not the issue.
- The Taku and the Stikine are declared SOC. A large Charter effort in Western Icy Straights, Yakobi Island, and the Taku River corridor is still occurring.
- Under SOC management (Years 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021) Sports have not caught their quota. This is probably due to the SOC spring closures in inside waters (not Covid). These closures were agreed to at the 2017 Sitka BOF meeting in order to protect returning SOC.
- Until SOC management is lifted (which is not eminent), if managed responsibly, there is no shortage of King Salmon quota for sport fishing.
- For 45 years Commercial Trollers have contributed 3% of their gross to local nonprofit hatchery Chinook production. SEAK Sport harvest benefits greatly from these hatcheries but doesn’t support them financially. In 2020 SEAK sport caught 6,300 commercially payed for Chinook.
- ADF&G creel sampling of sport harvest is limited (if still existing) in the Cross Sound, Icy Straights area (Taku corridor). Nor is there much (or any) sport harvest sampling in the Sumner Straight area which is the SOC Stikine River corridor. There are no creel samples taken at private docks (Lodges). If the Department is serious about SOC management the Department needs to know what stocks the Charter industry is harvesting.
- In the spring of 2021 on the Taku and Stikine Corridors there was a record annual out-of-state sports limit of 4 kings.Meanwhile the commercial hatchery access troll fishery was severely restricted from historic levels. Both the Taku and Stikine Chinook are SOC. Rather than setting a 2021 historical record annual out-of-state bag limit when SOC are present (Spring) ADF&G needs to do more creel samples. The origin of the sport harvested King Salmon (hatchery, wild, SOC) in these areas is largely unknown due to lack of creel and scale samples.
- Agreements on management programs with our PST partners (B.C., the Pacific NW States) have never come to fruition. These southern folks need to take their share of PST agreements seriously. Alaska needs to demand that they do and that we get our fair share from the lower 48 and not argue over the bread crumbs.
- Resident sport fish harvest is stable, resident sport fish is not asking for more of the troll allocation.
- If passed, this would be a precedent that sports (Charters) is prioritized over commercial fisheries.