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Regional Body Votes to Keep Tier 2 Subsistence Chum Salmon Fishery in Norton Sound Area

Chum salmon leaping near Cold Bay, AK. Photo: K. Mueller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More than 40 proposals — covering topics from brown bear tag fees to the length of commercial salmon fishing seasons — were discussed by the Northern Norton Sound Advisory Committee earlier this week. Their recommendations now go to the Alaska Board of Fish and the Alaska Board of Game for final determination.

During the regional AC’s latest meeting on Monday, one lone proposal related to wildlife was on the agenda – a request to continue brown bear tag fee exemptions for residents in the region. These brown bear tags are metal locking devices put on the bear’s hide itself, which is not the same as a permit.

“It’s a $25 tag. We’ve basically had the exemption in place since 1998, and it’s something that historically has been authorized on an annual basis.”

That’s Bill Dunker, an area biologist for the Department of Fish & Game in Unit 23. As Dunker mentioned, this fee exemption has been approved every year for decades, and for almost that same amount of time, committee member Tom Gray has voted against it.

“I’ve always opposed this, and the reason, I oppose, is we need to understand what our hunter base is. What are we managing for? Are we managing for ten bears, one hundred bears, five hundred bears — how many people are hunting this? And we don’t know that. We know how many bears are getting shot, but we haven’t got a clue how many hunters are out there.”

Gray was joined by Jack Fagerstrom from Golovin in saying “no” to proposal 139, but all other present AC members passed it through to the Alaska Board of Game. The majority of the remaining proposals in front of the Northern Norton Sound Advisory Committee focused on fish.

Chairman Charlie Lean stood alone in favor of a proposal to repeal the Tier 2 subsistence chum salmon fishery, a proposal that he submitted before the committee.

“The idea was to get rid of the Tier 2 management rules, because the run had been, with one year’s exception, very strong since the year 2000. But the vast majority of the Advisory Committee felt that this was a tool in the toolbox, and it would be a shame to get rid of it, because it took five years to put it in place, originally. And they didn’t want to throw away a little-used tool.”

Nome member Adem Boeckman summed up the committee’s decision another way, by emphasizing that Tier 2 is already in place now, it could be very difficult to put it into effect again later if it is repealed, and getting rid of this fishery management tool doesn’t come with any gained benefits, in his opinion.

Before adjourning Monday’s meeting, the AC also voted to lengthen the commercial salmon season in the Norton Sound/Port Clarence area, curb the intentional waste of subsistence fish, and formally involve the Kotzebue Fish & Game Advisory Committee in decisions regarding king crab.

“The Kotzebue Fish & Game Advisory Committee and the Southern Norton Sound Advisory Committee have not been included in that package, and yet, they both have king crab stocks: the Southern Norton Sound has a commercial king crab fishery just like Northern does, so they should be allowed to comment on those things.”

These proposals still have to be approved or rejected by the Alaska Board of Fish and the Alaska Board of Game. The Board of Fish meets next week in Anchorage, January 15–19, while the Board of Game Southeast and Southcentral Regions meeting is scheduled for March 15–19.

The Northern Norton Sound AC plans on meeting again in early March.

Coming up in Nome is a Norton Sound King Crab stock meeting. Lean says more details about this meeting will be released closer to January 23.

Image at top: file photo: Chum salmon leaping near Cold Bay, Alaska. Photo: K. Mueller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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