This was Emailed to me.....Thought I should share it with you all....
December 14, 2011
Attention: Regional Supervisors Tracy Lingnau and James Hasbrouck
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
333 Raspberry Road
Anchorage, AK 99518-1599
Dear Regional Supervisors Lingnau and Hasbrouck:
Northern Cook Inlet King Salmon Conservation Concerns
Some members of the Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee attended 2 public meeting in the Matanuska - Susitna Borough during the fall of 2011 where sport fish staff from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) explained that minimum king salmon spawning escapement goal levels were only achieved in 5 of 17 Northern Cook Inlet streams with ADF&G established and monitored escapement goals during the 2011 season. Lower than desired spawning escapements occurred after the Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) followed ADF&G recommendations in designating 6 Northern Cook Inlet king salmon stocks with Stock of Concern status during the 2011 Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries meeting, and further established more restrictive king salmon fishing regulations for both sport and commercial harvests of these salmon stocks. During the 2011 season all 6 of the Stock of Concern streams (Chuitna River, Lewis River, Theodore Creek, Alexander Creek, Willow Creek, and Goose Creek) failed to meet minimum king salmon spawning escapement levels, along with 6 additional streams located within the Matanuska - Susitna Valley. At both earlier mentioned fall 2011 meetings ADF&G sport fish staff voiced concern for the resource and a desire to manage Northern Cook Inlet king salmon sport fisheries on a more conservative basis through use of the ADF&G Commissionerís emergency order authority during the upcoming 2012 fishing season. At the second meeting, an ADF&G commercial fisheries spokesman stated that the Northern District King Salmon Management Plan forbids ANY additional inseason emergency order adjustments to the Northern District commercial king salmon fishery. All users / managers need clarification on this point.
The Advisory Committee has written this letter to provide public input to the process of developing acceptable EMERGENCY king salmon fishing regulations, that may help ADF&G better achieve established and BOF confirmed Northern Cook Inlet king salmon spawning escapement goal ranges, while at the same time maintaining harvest and economic opportunities for all resource user groups during the 2012 fishing season.
The Committee recognizes that all early commercial king salmon harvest has already been closed near, and all king salmon sport fishing and harvest has been closed within: Chuitna River, Lewis River, Theodore Creek, Alexander Creek, and Goose Creek. Therefore, it would be difficult to further address sport and commercial harvests and allocations of king salmon bound for these Stock of Concern streams outside of the normal Board of Fisheries meeting process.
Reasons to Prioritize Little Susitna River King Salmon Conservation
Of the remaining Northern streams with lower than desired king salmon escapement levels, the Committee suggests prioritizing better management of Little Susitna RIver king salmon for the following reasons, 1. the sport fishery on this river has provided some of the highest angler days of use in the past 30 years within the Northern Cook Inlet Management Area, 2. The river is close and accessible to the population centers of Anchorage and the Matanuska - Sustina Borough, 3. Little Su has a state-owned campground / boat launch/ parking facility located on its lower eastern bank, 4. The river provides a high economic value boat fishery with an open salmon fishing area of approximately 70 miles, 5. When closed to king salmon fishing (because of high annual use and volume of mobile boat angler participants) Little Su likely has a higher displacement impact on additional streamsí king salmon escapement levels, 6. Little Susitna already has a 4-year history of weir-counted king salmon escapement returns to base future management decisions upon, 7. Focusing more timely king salmon management on the Little Susinta River fishery provides better economic use of limited state management dollars -- ADF&G has already planned and budgeted to re-install and operate the Little Susitna RIver Weir at a lower river location during mid - late summer of 2012 for counting coho, chum, pink, and sockeye salmon escapements. Therefore, installing and staffing a Little Susitna River weir at a downstream location earlier in 2012 would only require additional staffing dollars for an extended period of time, as planning, permitting, installing, breakdown, and partial staffing costs will already have been covered. Piggybacking on this already used management tool should provide considerable cost savings, with sooner-to-develop inseason king salmon management capabilities, and better bang for state management dollars, than establishing or tuning new monitoring site(s) / methods at other yet-to-be-determined Mat-Su Valley locations.
Over the past 3 years sport fishing for king salmon on the Little Susitna River has been continually restricted with the 2011 fishery entirely closed for the last 26 days of the BOF established season. Displacing boat-oriented king salmon anglers for this long from the Little Susitna River likely significantly increases king salmon effort and harvest from other Northern Cook Inlet sport king salmon fisheries. ADF&G sport fish biologists are recommending managing the Little Susitna River fishery on a more conservative basis in 2012, but in addition to achieving the established king salmon escapement goal range, what other objective(s) should management attempt to achieve?
Season Length, and Managing for Maximum Benefit -- Enumeration Required
Rather than simply closing the river to king salmon sport fishing earlier and for a longer duration each year, as ADF&G has done since 2009, the Advisory Committee suggests ADF&G attempt to manage the Little Susitna River fishery to both meet the escapement objective AND provide a full season of king salmon sport fishing opportunity, if possible. To best achieve both objectives the Committee unanimously supports re-intalling the Little Susitna River weir in a lower river location where it can once again be used for inseason king salmon management. WIth that thought in mind we suggest that ADF&G request funding from the Alaska Legislature for any additional management money the Department would need to once again utilize the weir in a lower Little Susitna River location for inseason management purposes for all (including king) species of salmon. The Advisory Committee further requests that ADF&G provide us with a copy of such monetary request, so the Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee may support that request before our individual legislators as well.
Weir Monitoring -- Time and Area Suggestions for Better Little Su Management
The Committee recommends the Department consider reducing fishing area by time as a means to achieving both the escapement goal and a more complete king salmon season of fishing opportunity for all Little Susitna River anglers. Specifically an idea that seems reasonable to Advisory Committee members would be to close Little Susitna River sport fishing for king salmon downstream of the natural gas pipeline for a period of approximately June 4-10 to allow a significant number of king salmon to migrate upstream through this portion of the river. An area from the gas pipeline upstream to the downstream boundary of the weir sanctuary area (assuming weir and sanctuary positioning similar to river mile 32.4 location) could remain open throughout the season to provide both consistent bank and boat fishing opportunity. The weir would be used to monitor the upstream king salmon migration, and if 1000 king salmon or another trigger number identified by ADF&G were to escape upstream of the weir before June 10, then ADF&G could reopen the closed area below the gas pipeline earlier. The sanctuary area on both sides of the weir would be closed to fishing at all escapement levels. Additional king salmon beyond the initial 1000 fish passing the weir would be needed to achieve current spawning escapement goal needs after June 10, so from approximately June 11 - 17 an area upstream from the weir sanctuary area to the Hock Lake portage could be closed to sport fishing (once again ADF&G should establish an escapement trigger whereby this second closed area could be reopened if the trigger were to be achieved prior to June 17) -- perhaps a trigger between 2000 - 2500 king salmon might be appropriate. After June 17, if ADF&G sport fish staff projected additional king salmon escapement past the weir was still needed, regulations could be adjusted accordingly, up to an entire river closure to sport king salmon fishing, in order to achieve the king salmon spawning escapement goal. If such a total river closure occurred, in contrast to the 2011 closure, a weir would be in place, with ADF&G staff continuing to count king salmon escapement -- so if adequate king salmon escapement occurred, before the scheduled end of the season, the sport king salmon fishery could reopen.
Commercial Sharing of Little Susitna RIver King Salmon Conservation Burden
With Emergency Order sport fishing time and area restrictions suggested in this letter the Advisory Committee has attempted to provide a means for increasing Little Susitna River king salmon escapement through the sport fishery, while still providing a full season of opportunity for all anglers to participate. To achieve and measure increased king salmon escapements, portions of the river would be closed to all sport fishing at specific times during the season. The weir sanctuary area would be closed to all fishing for the entire time the weir was in operation. The lower river area of approximately 26 miles downstream from the gas pipeline would be closed from June 4 -10 (or until ADF&G projected an adequate escapement level past the weir), and the area from the weir sanctuary upstream approximately 12 miles to the Hock Lake portage would be closed to fishing from June 11- 17 ( or until ADF&G projected adequate escapement past the weir). These suggested closures represent a significant reduction in both fishing area and harvest opportunity for sport anglers. Following principles outlined in ADF&Gís Sustainable Salmon Fisheries Policy, the Advisory Committee requests at least an attempt to reduce commercial exploitation of Little Susitna River bound king salmon concurrently with any sport fish regulation adjustments issued by emergency order for the 2012 season. Consistent with the way salmon are managed throughout the Central District of Upper Cook Inlet, and the way king salmon are currently managed near the stream mouths of most significant king salmon producing streams in the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet, the Committee requests that ADF&G establish a one-mile radius sanctuary area around the mouth of the Little Susitna River where commercial salmon fishing would be prohibited by emergency order simultaneously with any king salmon sport fishing emergency order restriction / closure on the Little Susitna River. Similar to suggested sport fishing regulation adjustments, all Northern District commercial fishermen would still be allowed to participate in previously scheduled king salmon harvest opportunities, but, also similar to the sport fishery an area would be regulated off limits to commercial fishing / harvest in an attempt to increase Little Susitna River king salmon escapement levels in a manner that more closely matches the Sustainable Salmon Fisheries Policy. If Regional Supervisor Lingnau believes ADF&G lacks BOF authorization / clarification for making the emergency commercial management change to help attain minimum Little Susitna escapement goal needs and sharing of conservation burden, then the Committee requests ADF&G seek authorization / clarification from the BOF through emergency petition, or other appropriate means, providing adequate time in preparation for the 2012 fishing season.
Considering our suggestions, the Committee respectfully requests a response as to how ADF&G plans to meet Northern Cook Inlet king salmon escapement goals in 2012?
Bill Folsom, Chairman
Committee letter unanimously approved by 12-0-0 vote at December 14, 2011 meeting.