As I sit on the plane returning from 11 days of Board of Fish meetings in Sitka I would like to take this time to explain to the fleet some of the pertinent points of reaching the agreement. Max and I, both vested in shellfish showed up prior to the finfish portion of the meeting. The meeting was not well attended at this time and we had frequent opportunities to meet with board members and vet some of our issues. It was understood that they knew we were above our allocation of enhanced fish and likely would “move the needle” in some fashion.
The main proposals facing us were 1- prohibit gillnetting in Anita Bay, 2- seine in Nakat, 1 day gillnet to 2 days seine in Deep Inlet. We all understand that we enjoy the benefits from enhanced fish and particularly those created from DIPAC, but to what level? The enhanced allocation plan puts the gillnet allocation at 24 to 27% of enhanced fish. Recently we have caught between 35 to 45% of all enhanced value. In 2017 due to large DIPAC returns preliminary data shows the gillnet fleet harvested 47% of all enhanced fish, this is 20% over the top end of our allocated range. With total contribution from enhanced fish just over 50 million dollars in 2017 our allocation overage is in surplus of 10 million dollars. The enhanced allocation plan has specific language that adjustments in THA’s is how we solve these imbalances. How does the BOF swing the needle for that number?
Our only argument was to get the BOF to look at the whole picture which is a reasonable argument, but a complicated one. It was going to take time and the board’s undivided attention. Unfortunately we did not have that, the meeting was already a day over schedule with 2 1/2 days of public testimony, the most controversial Sitka sac roe decisions yet and the most comprehensive SE wide Chinook stock of concern plan to date statewide.
We did not feel we would get the attention needed to change four individual allocation plans because we were over in one of them. In listening to the board deliberate on other proposals it became apparent that some of the members were very apposed to sunset clauses. This was a game changer. If the board decided to “swing the needle” and give us 1/2 seine at Deep Inlet or Anita Bay or both we knew it is likely we would not drop below our range until survivals fail at DIPAC, we might be stuck with that schedule for many years. We elected to take a short term loss we had control of rather than a potentially long term devastating loss. We understood the seine fleet wanted value in 2018 with one of the lowest pink predictions in recent times it is likely they will not have much opportunity in the common property fisheries. This will also result in less chum being harvested in common property seine fisheries allowing more to reach THA’s. This resulted in the 1/2 seine rotation at Deep Inlet shifting enhanced value to seine in a season they would need it most. Both fleets will benefit from DIPAC grant monies to offset cost recovery in Deep Inlet, and is somewhat of a mitigating factor for local gillnetters, even tho the ratio is not in our favor there will be opportunity in August when it was closed in 2016 for cost recovery.
As we considered the Hawk Inlet portion of this deal we weighed the pros and cons. We know fishermen in the North would not approve, yet we would not have had a deal otherwise. We also feel there is very likely to be no increased opportunity in 2018 and 2020 with low pink abundance. There is likely to be some increased seine opportunity in 2019 with moderate pink returns, even so we expect the area manager to manage conservatively unless it is a very large pink return. Most opportunity will occur after the majority of the summer chum run.
There was considerable input in this decision. We had 10 individual gillnetters in the room from all throughout SE. There was three NSRAA board members, two SSRAA board members, two treaty reps and a DIPAC board member all consulting. We looked at what we thought was the best odds for the greates overall value to our fleet. The final decision was made in time to have a signed agreement submitted within a half hour of the deadline for testimony. We had a stack of testimony cards ready to go if the agreement was not reached.
A huge benefit of this agreement is we received support for getting gillnetters included in THA’s at SE Cove near Kake and Crawfish Inlet. It is now up to the discretion of the NSRAA board to include us in the rotational schedules at those sites. There are decent to large releases at both of these sites.
For the 2018 season It is likely due to local Sitka gillnetters voicing their concerns that gear groups at NSRAA will be willing to come together to form a rotational schedule that works for the benefit of all. Please talk to your reps if you have a schedule suggestion. Having a functional relationship at the regional associations with the other gear groups will be in everyone’s benefit not only at NSRAA but SSRAA as well as we consider options for releases of new chum production.
We know there are those that are not happy and feel compromised, but we feel we made the best decision to retain the most opportunity and value for our fleet.