Commission Cotton has sunk ADF&G to new low
Upper Cook Inlet Commercial Fishing Announcement No. 1 reduces the open fishing time in the Northern District directed king salmon commercial set gillnet fishery from twelve hours to six hours for the regularly scheduled fishing period on Monday, May 30, 2016. For this period only, fishing will be open from 7:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
On the surface the above e.o would indicate some type of conservation issue with Northern District chinook salmon requiring action. That assessment would be wrong. The Commissioner of ADF&G has made a political call based on some type of pressure from those outside the Department. So here is the real story and why this Commissioner needs to be fired.
So before I tell the story here are some facts. The total run of Chinook to the Upper inlet has been around 150-200k fish for the past few years. The estimate from last year was 137,000 in the Susitna and one would add the other streams to this total.
The commercial harvest for all periods has been less than 1% of the total return.
The harvest on the first period has been around 400 chinook when fishing 12 hours.
Reduction to 6 hours fishing optimum time will still take 200-300 fish -
The sport fishery is being liberalized in the major systems like the Deska.
So based on the fact that the 100-200 fish will make no difference in escapement or the sport fishery and that the harvest rate in total is less than 1% it makes no biological sense to restrict the fishery. As a result the local, regional, and headquarters staff were in agreement based on the management plans (which allow up to 12,500 fish to be harvested) that the fishery should not be restricted. In addition local sport fish staff tended to agree. Remember there are extensive closed waters around streams that are closed to sport fishing.
The Director of Commercial Fish was informed by the Commissioner that he was over-ruling the staff and implementing a 6 hour meaningless closure. Why would a Commissioner turn on his staff recommendation and have a change that is biologically meaningless? Only one answer - political pressure and game playing.
We cannot afford a Commissioner that does this type of action. Our resources are too valuable to have a political hack who does not understand the basics of fishery management making decisions on a billion dollar industry statewide.
All fisherman should let the Commissioner know they want sound scientifically defendable decisions. This Commissioner has lost his staff confidence in UCI. The job is hard enough without being over-ruled on political whims. If it was a qray area call then one can say judgement is the issue. This call to fish was not in a gray area.
One more point - local, regional, and headquarters staff refused to sign e.o. It was signed by Commissioner office.
I was looking over the EMERGANCY ORDER restrictions issued by ADF&G for the King salmon sport fishery in the May Su valley. Depending on which Tributary of the Susitna River you are looking at the restrictions could range from all to some of the following; reducing yearly limit from five to two, no bait, reducing days allowed to fish, no harvest, to total closures.
The EO's go on to state that since 2007 King salmon stocks in these streams have been in a period of low abundance. So, the department feels that it is prudent to start the sport fishery out in a cautious mode. Thus the wide range of EO's issued well before any King salmon begin to enter the systems in this area.
Yet some think Sam Cotten should be fired for being cautious on the Comm fish side of things on these same stocks? Why am I not suprised...
HMMMMMMM,,,,, the EO states the following reason for the closure:
"King salmon originating from the Chuitna River drainage remain a stock of management concern. As a result of this finding, the king salmon sport fishery in this drainage has been closed since the 2011 season. The Northern District King Salmon Management Plan (5 AAC 21.366) specifies that if the Chuitna River is closed to sport fishing, the commissioner shall close the commercial king salmon fishery, by emergency order, from the wood chip dock to the Susitna River. This emergency order implements that mandatory closure."
So, does the management plan not say this?
Yes, and the area targeting that stock is closed. The emergency order applies to all of Northern District which is not covered by the above restriction. Also relative to conservative management then all of the sport fishery should be closed. The interception of stocks in-river bound for the small streams listed as of concern are taken in downstream mainstem fisheries. Also, the management plan gives the ND commercial fishery a quota when the run to the Susitna is at these levels. That quota has never been reached because of no additional fishing time on strong returns. So tell me how 200 fish out of 200,000 makes a difference when the sport fishery is being liberalized?
Originally Posted by NorcalBob
Correct, that is what this EO says. But go back and read the other 4 EO's issued regarding the sport fishery in the mat-Su
Originally Posted by NorcalBob
What's worse is that on May 30 between 7:00 am to 1:00 pm there is about 4 hours of virtually unfishable low tide time. This is mud alley, and nets aren't even fishing when they are laying in low tide mud.
Iceblue, all you're eluding to is that this is an allocation issue between sport and commercial - confirmation this was a political decision. Care to show the biological justification for it?
This is the second time today I have heard/seen mentioned the number of EO's issued relative to these two fisheries. It is as if some are measuring opportunity by the number of EO's. Sport fish issued 4 separate EO's for limiting King fishing in the Susitna river drainage. Commfish issued one sweeping EO for limiting commercial fishing in the ND. That has absolutely no bearing on the severity of the EO's, or on fishing opportunity. Sportfish easily could have issued one EO combining all four issued, and commfish could easily have split their recent EO into two separate EO's.
Originally Posted by iceblue
The issue is that sport fish manages by river system in the Susitna and with the size of the drainage this is fine. However, it is not acceptable from a management position to then take those small systems that never had the ability to provide for the pressure in the valley and extend that out to the commercial fishery when the commercial exploitation rate in total is less than one percent. We have numerous examples where we do not do this for obvious reasons. For example Russian River sockeye when it is not making a goal does not mean shutting down the whole Kenai River sport fishery as they are intercepting Russian River sockeye. Specific closed areas are defined for this type of action.
What is bad here is that the Commissioner is playing politics not best management practice for the mixed stocked sport and commercial fisheries. He is overriding the professional judgement of the staff who know the regulations inside and out and he will lose his staff support as a result. They will not trust him in the future and will not expose themselves to this type of action. The fact they made the Commissioner office sign the e.o speaks volumes on this point.
Finally, the measure of a conservation closure is whether it is effective relative to the goal being met. In this case there is no biological justification that can say yes it had a positive impact. In fact the impact cannot even be measured.
So what is really bad is that the public also gets the message the Commissioner can be influenced politically and thus sets up the Department for long term credibility issues. This has been an ongoing issue with the Department for over a decade with poor performance at the Board of Fish meetings and flat out lies about the chinook sonar counter. I had hoped Walker would appoint a resource manager as Commissioner and instead he appointed a political hack who does not even know how to age a salmon.
You were doing ok until you lowered yourself to name calling. I don't think you know as much about the Commissioner as you think. I am not sticking up for the action of the EO.
I know him better than you think and formed an opinion of his fishery knowledge and political nature long before this e.o by working with him on the CIAA Board for a number of years. It is my opinion that he will make more political decisions over scientific ones and this e.o proves that point to be true. He also has shown that those political considerations were more important to him than backing his staff. This e.o says a lot about this Commissioner. I also question his judgement on doing this from just a common sense viewpoint. If you are going to take an action it should be meaningful and not symbolic. Symbolic decisions have no place in fish management in Alaska. So if you are going to hang your staff out take the bold action and close the commercial fishery and say the 1000 fish will make a difference (not sure that is even defensible but at least one could argue it). I will admit that I should have not used the term hack and left it as a political decision.
Originally Posted by MGH55
It is sad that politics is part of fishery management is our fine state. It is time to rid our state of the politicians the are being controlled, and forcing this type of action! You have no idea what the Commissioner may have saved. As long as politicians have anything to do with who is on the board of fish and the board of game we as a state loose!
When the Commissioner overrules local, regional, and headquarters staff without biological justification, and he does not support his staff, and can't even convince them to sign off, something very political is going on. Political power-pull indeed. The question is where is it coming from and what's in it for the Commish?
Nerka - I understand your concern up to the point where you indicate "political pressure and game-playing" are behind the decision. Who is behind this? What do they have to gain? Or conversely, what does the Commish have to lose if he doesn't take this action?
Fun asked the right question: "Where is it coming from and what's in it for the Commish?" At this point, any answer might just be speculation, since the folks behind these types of decisions don't normally make it known who they are, or why they're doing this.
So I accept a certain amount of speculation. I don't expect specific evidence.
Just to clarify, all of the king salmon sport fisheries in the Susitna drainage and Knik Arm are under restrictions, except for the stocked fishery at Eklutna Tailrace. Both Deshka and Little Su king salmon sport fisheries contain restrictions from normal regulations. Anglers should carefully review the emergency orders to avoid any illegal activity.
Originally Posted by Nerka
Here are some past reasons that I was exposed to with other Commissioners. One is the Department budget. A powerful legislator wants something done and threatens the Department budget if it is not done. Next, a change of favors - the Commissioner bargins for something he wants the legislature to do and uses political tools to get there, the Commissioner owes a favor for being appointed or the Commissioner has been misinformed by staff and finds out. In this case I suspect that the political upheaval in the valley with their powerful legislators and the Commissioner personal relationship with Stolz led to this decision. I doubt the budget was threatened as it was passed with the decision was made.
Originally Posted by Cohoangler
Relative to Aktally the liberalization had to do with increasing harvest from recent years - So the sport fishery was a positive gain the commercial fishery a net loss.
They should also count the emergency orders, because the number of emergency orders issued is very important relative to parity and the management of those fisheries...
Originally Posted by aktally
[QUOTE=smithtb;1537740]They should also count the emergency orders, because the number of emergency orders issued is very important relative to parity and the management of those fisheries...
This is the exact type of post that I have come to expect from you. Read the content of the Four EO's and try to understand why ADF&G feels that they needed to be issued. Then think about why a EO issued on the first ND set net fishery was felt to warranted by the commissioner.
Relative to Aktally the liberalization had to do with increasing harvest from recent years - So the sport fishery was a positive gain the commercial fishery a net loss.[/QUOTE]
Nerka, You obviously didn't read or don't understand the content of the four EO's issued to the sport fishery in this area to make such a comment as this. Restricting days, closing areas, no retention, and reducing yearly bag limit was a severe net loss to the sport fishery.
In 2015 there were five possible 12 hour commercial periods for a total of 60 hours. One was closed, two were 6 hour periods, two were 12 hour periods for a total of 36 hours or 60% of normal fishing time. In 2016, there are four regular 12 hour periods for a total of 48 total hours. One period is reduced to 6 hours and the remaining three periods are 12 hours for a total of 42 hours or 87.5% of normal hours.
Originally Posted by Nerka
My original post was only to make sure anglers are aware of the restrictions to the sport fishery so they don't get a citation. The restrictions to the sport fishery are less severe than last year, but they are still restrictions and will likely reduce sport harvest by 60% from normal regulations.