January 31, 2014
The Alaska Board of Fisheries on Friday kicks off a two-week meeting with a fish war at its center.
At odds: the Cook Inlet setnet fleet, which target sockeye near the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, and groups representing king salmon-dependent Kenai guides, charter operators, and tourism businesses.
Sportfishing interests are asking the state to protect plummeting numbers of Kenai River king salmon by restricting commercial fishing. Setnet groups are pressing for access to healthy runs of sockeye.
The seven-member board will weigh a total of 236 separate proposals to change fishing regulations in Upper Cook Inlet during the meeting at the Egan Civic & Convention Center. Public comment, scheduled to last at least three days, is expected to be rowdy and divided.
Along with the much-anticipated Kenai River conversation and a proposal to prohibit fishing near Soldotna's boat launch, a number of proposals center on Mat-Su fisheries such as the Susitna River and Knik River areas like Jim Creek.
Nearly 500 public comments came in before the meeting even started. Only mass mailings for hot-button issues like aerial wolf control and bear hunts near McNeil River exceeded that total, state officials say.