The state Board of Fisheries is convening in Kodiak this weekend for the next Kodiak Finfish Meeting. After pushing to keep the regulatory meeting in Kodiak, instead of Anchorage, Kodiak salmon fishermen are organizing to oppose a number of proposals that they say will harm the local economy.
It should come as no surprise that the most controversial proposals in the upcoming Kodiak Finfish Meeting have to do with allocation. Which fish belong to which fishery, and which area’s fleet are allowed to fish them.
But that’s not how everyone views the issue.
“Really all these fish belong to the people as a whole, they’re a common property resource,” said Denby Lloyd, a former longtime Kodiak resident and commissioner of the Department of Fish & Game in the late 2000’s. “There is no ownership of these fish until somebody catches them.”
Like many Kodiak fishing advocates, Lloyd argues that several of the proposals unfairly target Kodiak’s fleet for “stealing” their catch.
One proposal made by the Upper Cook Inlet Drift Association points to a 2016 genetic study showing that most of the Kodiak sockeye catch near Cape Igvak are fish bound for Cook Inlet. The proposal suggests a nearly one month closure to part of Kodiak Island’s west side fishery while those sockeye go through. But Lloyd says the Kodiak catch represents so little of Cook Inlet’s total run, it will do little to help.
“To try to manage Kodiak fisheries to absolutely avoid Cook Inlet bound sockeye would decimate the Kodiak fisheries for very, very little incremental gain to the Cook Inlet fisheries themselves,” Lloyd said.
Another allocation fight around Cape Igvak has Kodiak pitted against Chignik. Chignik’s sockeye run has returned devastatingly low numbers the last few years, and several Chignik Intertribal Coalition proposals seek to alleviate the issue by limiting Kodiak’s participation in the region.
One would completely shut Kodiak out from the early sockeye run, only opening the fishery beginning July 8. Another would reduce Kodiak’s share of the fishery from 15 percent to 5 percent. And yet another would more than double the number of fish reserved for Chignik before the fishery opens to Kodiak.
Kodiak Salmon Work Group chair Duncan Fields said these limits wouldn’t necessarily close the fishery to Kodiak fishermen, but they would make a fishing season very improbable.
“The Igvak fishery had nothing to do with run failures, and it won’t solve run failures because no fishery occurred during the years when those run failures occur,” he said.
Fields estimates Kodiak would lose $3 to $3.2 million annually if the Cape Igvak fishery closes.
Beginning Saturday, the board is slated to consider 37 proposals regarding commercial salmon fishing, sport fishing, and groundfish in and around Kodiak. A training session on how to participate in the board process, including how to make public comments, is on Saturday at noon at the Harbor Convention Center.
You can hear our full interview with Duncan Fields and Denby Lloyd on Thursday’s special Talk of the Rock at 12:30 p.m.