The Board meeting is just about over and unless a last second reconsideration is made the commercial fishery plans are set. So lets look at them. The Board has put coho and chinook salmon as a priority fish in UCI but has not stated that in regulation. Instead, they kept the sockeye salmon goals in place but put severe restrictions on the ADF&G fish managers. Here is the bottom line - the Board said to the Department - do not fish here and do not fish many hours but make all the goals. We understand that you cannot do this so we will say on the record that our plans are not fixed so you can use your emergency order authority to manage the fisheries - wink wink nod nod. In fact, the past decade has pointed out that in-season local managers have requested to go outside the plans for sockeye management, even when other goals have been met, and have been refused by political Commissioners and Directors in Juneau - end result - sockeye goals have been exceeded.
In contrast to the Board, the ADF&G leadership is saying to the public - these are not our plans and if the goals are exceeded it is the Board of Fish fault as they are the Board's plans.
So each has created an out for not managing the sockeye fisheries. This was very obvious in 2012 when the Commissioner said she did not have authority to go outside the plans- ignorance or planned deception? In 2013, the ADF&G again made decisions to implement the plans and give up sockeye harvest when the Kenai chinook goal was met. Blaming the Board plans for inaction. It appears ADF&G will go outside plans if the political backlash is acceptable but will not when it is not a political advantage. Directors and Commissioners serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
So what is the solution to this obvious broken system? One is to have honest representation on the Board and a new type of Board of Fish. If the Board and its' chairman want to put a priority on chinook and coho say so but also change the sockeye goals so ADF&G will not fail in management. If they want to be honest with the public set the Kenai River sockeye goals higher and say we are giving up millions of dollars of yield for this other allocation priority. This is not a biological discussion. Instead, the Board kept the sockeye goals in place and said we can have our cake and eat it too. That, as everyone knows, is not possible.
So the dishonest approach to decision making has set everyone up to fail. The various industries are in chaos and the public is totally confused on how a season will be managed. Will the plans be followed, will a new Governor take the heat, will the ADF&G finally say we have to manage to both goals and really use emergency order authority to alter plans?
It is not good public service to do what this Board of Fish has done this session. They are acting irresponsible in passing these plans with limitations on ADF&G emergency order authority. What they should do is remove the time and area restrictions and set the goals so ADF&G can succeed more years than fail.