|Mouth of Kenai River during the personal use fishery|
If you're concerned about Alaska fisheries, the next two weeks are very important. The triennially Board of Fisheries (BOF) meeting will be held in Anchorage from 1/31-2/13. The BOF is made up of 7 members appointed by the Governor and their main role is to conserve and develop the fishery resources of the state. This involves setting seasons, bag limits, methods and means for the state's subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport, and personal use fisheries. Perhaps most important to me is the BOF is in charge of allocative decisions. In other words, who gets what slice of the pie.
What makes Alaska unique is it is the only state that allows the public (and not just Alaskans) to submit regulatory proposals about ongoing management issues across the state. Because of this process it is a highly political affair with all user groups being well represented.
This year there are 236 proposals for Upper Cook Inlet. That's right, 236. Specific to the Kenai, there are 10 proposals for the management of the early run of kings. As an example, one is to reduce the current low end of the slot limit from 46" to 42". And, for the late run of Kenai kings there are 12 proposals. One of which is to lower the escapement goal of kings from a minimum of 15,000 to 12,000.
In this BOF cycle there are quite a few proposals that have merit, some, not so much. I've been to several of BOF meetings (I am unable to attend this year but have written letters) and have walked away thinking, 1) I would never want a BOF job because there will always be a user group disappointed in a decision, and 2) as a whole, the BOF members are a level headed, pragmatic group that let facts and common sense guide their decisions despite the emotions (and politics) that permeate the 2 weeks of discussions.
If you would like to see the 2014 agenda, click here. Or, if you're really committed to this process you can listen to a live audio stream by clicking here.
When these meetings are done make sure to look for my follow up post to explain what changes, if any, will occur in 2014.