Fish Board cuts Cook Inlet harvests

Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2000

ANCHORAGE - Both anglers and commercial fishermen in upper Cook Inlet will have to give up part of their silver salmon catch under an Alaska Board of Fisheries plan to rebuild declining stocks.

Starting this summer, saltwater anglers will be restricted to three silvers a day, while most river sport fishermen will be able to pull in two per day.

Last year's daily limits were six silvers in saltwater and three in the rivers.

On Friday the board also cut the number of fishing days and the maximum net length for setnetters on the east side of Cook Inlet.

No cuts were made to the Cook Inlet driftnet fleet.

Board chairman Dan Coffey said the new regulations spread the pain of smaller runs equally among all users, given other cuts made in the past five years. Each of the fishing groups has seen its silver catch reduced by about 40 percent, he said.

``What we tried to do was to be allocatively neutral,'' he said. ``We did not want to reallocate fish.''

Gov. Tony Knowles had asked the board to take a closer look at silvers because of poor runs in recent years.

State biologists believe smaller silver runs result more from ocean mortality than overfishing, but they say a growing number of fishermen contribute to shrinking returns.

The fish board's measures were welcomed by sportfishing advocates, who have long complained that they have borne the brunt of restrictions.

``If I were going to boil it down to one comment, I'd say the fish won,'' said Brett Huber, who heads the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. ``I'm heartened to see what the board did.''

Setnetters, however, questioned the need for new restrictions.

``At this point, we're sitting here stunned,'' said Karl Kircher, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association, which represents many Cook Inlet setnetters. ``We'll have to regroup and see where we go from here.''

Kircher said the new restrictions could cost setnetters as much as 10 percent of their red salmon catch. Setnetters target red salmon, but they catch some silvers because of overlap in the runs.

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