Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124

04/27/2018 01:00 PM RESOURCES

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Audio Topic
01:03:46 PM Start
01:04:26 PM Presentation(s): Alaska Department of Fish & Game
02:30:11 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation: Past & Projected Mat-Su Salmon TELECONFERENCED
Returns & Fishing Opportunities by Dept. of Fish
Game Staff
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE RESOURCES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         April 27, 2018                                                                                         
                           1:03 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Andy Josephson, Co-Chair                                                                                         
Representative Geran Tarr, Co-Chair                                                                                             
Representative John Lincoln, Vice-Chair                                                                                         
Representative Justin Parish                                                                                                    
Representative Chris Birch                                                                                                      
Representative DeLena Johnson                                                                                                   
Representative David Talerico                                                                                                   
Representative Mike Chenault (alternate)                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative Harriet Drummond                                                                                                 
Representative George Rauscher                                                                                                  
Representative Chris Tuck (alternate)                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
OTHER LEGISLATORS PRESENT                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                              
Representative Colleen Sullivan-Leonard                                                                                         
Representative David Eastman                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Mike Shower                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                              
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
PRESENTATION(S):  ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
TOM BROOKOVER, Director                                                                                                         
Division of Sport Fish                                                                                                          
Alaska Department of Fish & Game                                                                                                
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Co-presented  information related to fishing                                                           
runs and fishing opportunities in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SCOTT KELLEY, Director                                                                                                          
Division of Commercial Fisheries                                                                                                
Alaska Department of Fish & Game                                                                                                
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Co-presented  information related to fishing                                                           
runs and fishing opportunities in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:03:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  GERAN   TARR  called   the  House   Resources  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at  1:03 p.m.   Representatives Tarr,                                                               
Birch, Talerico, Johnson, Lincoln,  and Josephson were present at                                                               
the  call   to  order.    Representatives   Parish  and  Chenault                                                               
(alternate)  arrived  as the  meeting  was  in progress.    Also,                                                               
present  were Representatives  Sullivan-Leonard and  Eastman, and                                                               
Senator Shower.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
^PRESENTATION(S):  ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME                                                                             
                                                                                                                              
  PRESENTATION(S):  ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME ON MAT-SU                                                          
                 FISHING RUNS AND OPPORTUNITIES                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:04:26 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR TARR announced that the  only order of business would be                                                               
a presentation  by the Alaska  Department of Fish &  Game (ADF&G)                                                               
on   Matanuska-Susitna   (Mat-Su)   fishing  runs   and   fishing                                                               
opportunities.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  said the  presentation is  very important                                                               
to the Matanuska-Susitna  area due to [fishing]  closures of some                                                               
creeks in the Susitna River  drainage.  Further, the commissioner                                                               
of ADF&G announced  a change in king  salmon fisheries management                                                               
in the  Deshka River region due  to anticipated small runs.   She                                                               
said her  constituents want to  hear about  ADF&G's science-based                                                               
approach.      Representative    Johnson   paraphrased   from   a                                                               
constituent's letter as follows:                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     I would like to  thank you, Representative Johnson, for                                                                    
     your  continued service  and dedication  to maintaining                                                                    
     and  improving  Mat-Su  fisheries.     I  am  taking  a                                                                    
     government  class this  year for  school  and was  thus                                                                    
     thinking about  legislature.  Being an  avid fisherman,                                                                    
     I also  spend much time  thinking about where  and when                                                                    
     to  go fishing  with my  family.   This  year the  king                                                                    
     salmon fisheries  were greatly restricted.   Also, last                                                                    
     year the  silver salmon  fishery was  very poor  in the                                                                    
     main season.   One thing I feel that  was hindering our                                                                    
     salmon fisheries greatly is the  drift fisheries in the                                                                    
     central  district conservation  corridor.   I recognize                                                                    
     that setnet  fisheries, although they do  harvest large                                                                    
     number  of  fish,  are   easily  managed  for  specific                                                                    
     drainages with  minimal side-catch.  Thus, my  idea for                                                                    
     managing commercial  fisheries for  maximum opportunity                                                                    
     would  be to  mandate that  commercial drift  fisheries                                                                    
     should  not be  allowed  in  the conservation  corridor                                                                    
     until three of these four  streams of the salmon weirs,                                                                    
     Little  Susitna River,  Deshka  River,  Jim Creek,  and                                                                    
     Fish Creek, have met at  least part of their escapement                                                                    
     goal, probably  when one quarter through  one half, and                                                                    
     were  projected by  the Palmer  Department of  Fish and                                                                    
     Game to achieve escapement.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     I wonder  whether you would consider  sponsoring a bill                                                                    
     to this effect.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Signed,                                                                                                                    
     Paul Werda, avid fisherman                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:09:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
TOM BROOKOVER, Director, Division  of Sport Fish, ADF&G, reminded                                                               
the  committee  since  approximately 2007,  production  for  king                                                               
salmon has  been down  in Southeast  Alaska, Kodiak,  Cook Inlet,                                                               
and Western  Alaska fisheries.   Although the  presentation would                                                               
focus on northern Cook Inlet,  the [poor production] situation is                                                               
not exclusive  to northern  Cook Inlet  or the  Matanuska Valley.                                                               
He directed  attention to  a document  provided in  the committee                                                               
packet  identified  by  a  map  of  the  Susitna  River  drainage                                                               
including Knik  Arm and the  Matanuska River.   Not shown  on the                                                               
map, but  included in  the northern Cook  Inlet, were  the Little                                                               
Susitna River  and west  Cook Inlet streams.   He  explained Game                                                               
Management  Units 1-6  are  the management  units  ADF&G uses  to                                                               
manage  the sport  fishery,  including all  of  streams that  are                                                               
assigned  escapement  goals,  and  others (slide  1).    Slide  2                                                               
entitled,  "Table   X.  History   of  achieving   Chinook  salmon                                                               
escapement goals in NCI,  2006-2017," indicated escapement totals                                                               
for Knik  Arm, eastside Susitna,  westside Susitna and  west Cook                                                               
Inlet waterways;  shaded areas denoted where  and when escapement                                                               
goals were missed.  For  example, the Little Susitna River (weir)                                                               
has a goal of 2,100 to 4,300  fish; however, there was not a weir                                                               
at that  location until 2017.   He pointed  out in 2017  only two                                                               
monitored  locations  achieved  the   escapement  goal:    Little                                                               
Susitna River  and Little Willow  Creek.  Recent  performance has                                                               
been poor and there are seven  stocks of concern in northern Cook                                                               
Inlet  including   Willow  Creek,   Sheep  Creek,   Goose  Creek,                                                               
Alexander Creek, Lewis River, Theodore  River, and Chuitna River,                                                               
none of which have achieved  escapement goals.  Slide 3 entitled,                                                               
"Table  A  -  Salmon  abundance and  distribution  studies  ...,"                                                               
indicated  from  2013  through 2017,  the  division  studied  the                                                               
Susitna  River  and  developed drainage-wide  estimates  of  king                                                               
salmon.   When  compared  to the  previous  table, the  abundance                                                               
estimates  ranged from  90,500 in  2014 to  137,000 in  2015, and                                                               
down to 63,000  in 2017.  He  advised this is the  first time the                                                               
division has been able to  estimate abundance for the drainage as                                                               
a whole and is indicative of  the range in the production of king                                                               
salmon in the river drainage.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:17:16 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER  continued to slide  4 which was a  memorandum from                                                               
Nick DeCovich,  a research biologist  with the Division  of Sport                                                               
Fish, ADF&G, in  Palmer.  The memorandum includes  a forecast for                                                               
the 2018 Deshka River Chinook run  of 12,782 fish, which is below                                                               
the escapement  goal of  13,000 to 28,000  fish.   Therefore, the                                                               
entire Deshka run would be  insufficient to achieve its goal even                                                               
with no  fishing mortality.  He  directed attention to page  3 of                                                               
the memorandum:   Table  1. -  Forecast Chinook  salmon abundance                                                               
....   For  older  fish,  the division  uses  multiple models  to                                                               
predict  the number  of fish  returning  in each  age class;  for                                                               
example,  age 1.3  in the  [sibling relationship  model] forecast                                                               
predicts  1,300  to  1,400  fish, but  the  [Andrew  S.  Ricker's                                                               
Population Model]  predicts a return  of over 14,000; due  to the                                                               
conflicting information,  the division  chose to use  the sibling                                                               
forecast of 1,264 because of the lower error factor.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:20:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR   TARR  asked   for  a   description  of   the  forecast                                                               
methodologies used by the division.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER further  explained the moving average  is simply an                                                               
average of  data by each age  group for the past  five years; the                                                               
sibling model projects  for a certain age group  from the returns                                                               
of the previous years of that  age group; the [Andrew S. Ricker's                                                               
Population Model]  takes past  spawning escapements  and compares                                                               
all of the  spawning escapements by age classes  in the following                                                               
years, and he gave an  example.  Mr. Brookover returned attention                                                               
to page 5 of  the memorandum:  Table 3. -  Accuracy of the Deshka                                                               
River  Chinook  ...  and  pointed  out  the  relative  difference                                                               
between the  forecast and  the actual  run can  deviate up  to 52                                                               
percent;  in general,  the forecast  overestimates the  run, thus                                                               
the division must  consider the factors of  uncertainty and error                                                               
in its outlook.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:24:01 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON  inquired  as  to the  cause  of  the  52                                                               
percent relative difference which occurred in 2008.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER was unsure.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   JOHNSON    noted   additional    high   relative                                                               
differences occurred in 2007 and 2009.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PARISH asked if the  area around Lemesurier Island                                                               
[near Gustavus] was open to king salmon fishing.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER said he would provide information in that regard.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR TARR returned attention to  page 5 of the memorandum and                                                               
pointed out  the percentages  of over  forecasts are  higher than                                                               
those of under forecasts.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER agreed and said lower run goals are more affected.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR TARR asked  whether Northern pike predation  is a factor                                                               
in the evaluation of Chinook salmon runs.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER  said yes.   He returned  attention to slide  2 and                                                               
pointed out the  goal range for Alexander Creek is  from 2,100 to                                                               
6,000 fish.  Escapements in  Alexander Creek were larger prior to                                                               
2006,  and pike  suppression efforts  began in  the creek  around                                                               
2010;  in  fact,  indications  were strong  that  pike  were  the                                                               
primary  reason  for  salmon  decline   in  the  Alexander  Creek                                                               
drainage.   The division also nets  pike out of the  Deshka River                                                               
in  some years  and  elsewhere; pike  suppression  is a  regional                                                               
program performing  ongoing work  on the  Kenai Peninsula  and in                                                               
the Mat-Su Valley.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  TARR surmised  all salmon  species  are susceptible  to                                                               
pike predation.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BROOKOVER said  correct.  The impact  of  pike predation  on                                                               
certain  species  depends on  habitat  and  lake conditions;  for                                                               
example, lake  sockeye smolt must  cross shallows to exit  a lake                                                               
and  at  that point  become  susceptible  to  pike.   In  further                                                               
response to  Co-Chair Tarr, he  agreed there are many  sources of                                                               
mortality in fish;  furthermore, in general, data  shows there is                                                               
good freshwater production, which  indicates there is fluctuating                                                               
and poor marine  survival.  For example,  monitoring in Southeast                                                               
Alaska shows marine survival is down  to 1 percent from 2 percent                                                               
to 3 percent.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:34:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH  clarified   the  location  of  Lemesurier                                                               
Island and said  because that area is "the  entrance to Southeast                                                               
Alaska  for a  lot ...  of salmon  stock," restated  his question                                                               
about the status of king salmon retention in the area.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER  said he would  provide the  requested information.                                                               
He closed, noting that salmon  stock poor escapement performance,                                                               
unmet goals,  and the Deshka  River forecast led the  division to                                                               
issue  severe fishing  restrictions:   the sport  fishery in  the                                                               
Susitna  drainage is  closed to  king salmon;  catch and  release                                                               
with  single hooks  and  no bait  is allowed  in  the Deshka  and                                                               
Yentna  drainages;   the Little  Susitna is  open to  king salmon                                                               
four days  per week, also with  single hooks and no  bait, and an                                                               
annual  limit of  two; all  of the  west Cook  Inlet streams  are                                                               
closed  by  regulation.   However,  the  subsistence  fishery  at                                                               
Tyonek is unaffected.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR TARR asked whether this  was the first closure announced                                                               
before the season began.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER answered he was unsure.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON  noted the  forecast  is  just under  the                                                               
escapement  goals  and  asked  if  or  when  the  division  would                                                               
reevaluate its closure decision during the summer.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BROOKOVER  advised  the  division  will  monitor  indicators                                                               
during the season by using  fish wheels to generate drainage-wide                                                               
estimates,  to  determine  catch  rates,  and  to  determine  age                                                               
composition, particularly for 1.2 and  1.3 age classes.  Further,                                                               
the division will monitor the  Deshka River fishery for catch and                                                               
release  fishing, will  post daily  weir counts,  and intends  to                                                               
gather  data from  the Tyonek  subsistence  fishery.   Evaluating                                                               
this information will allow the  division to restore some fishing                                                               
opportunities when possible.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON asked whether  the division seeks specific                                                               
data on which to base its decision.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER  said one of  the key  indicators will be  from the                                                               
Deshka  weir   daily  counts  which   will  be   contrasted  with                                                               
historical data.   The 25 percent point of the  run occurs around                                                               
June 8 to  10; if the counts  are "well above what  we've seen in                                                               
past years  or what we'd  expect to  see, given the  forecast, we                                                               
could take action  to liberalize fisheries ... but  a, with, with                                                               
decisions of this type, with  king salmon typically, we'll, we'll                                                               
have  a  lot of  staff  engaged  in,  you know,  producing  those                                                               
numbers and discussions about what they mean."                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN asked  what additional  restrictions will                                                               
be imposed on commercial fisheries.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER deferred to Mr. Kelley.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:41:28 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SCOTT KELLEY, Director, Division  of Commercial Fisheries, ADF&G,                                                               
informed the committee  the set gillnet fishery  in the [Northern                                                               
District of Upper Cook Inlet]  at the mouth of the aforementioned                                                               
rivers  will be  closed  for  the entire  season  for the  stated                                                               
reasons; this closure will affect four fishing periods.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN  asked  whether   there  would  be  other                                                               
restrictions on commercial fishing imposed this year.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLEY said  no.   He  explained the  drift gillnet  fishery                                                               
starts later in  the season, and the eastside set  net fishery is                                                               
managed for Kenai and Kasilof salmon stocks.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SULLIVAN-LEONARD  expressed   her  concern  about                                                               
small tourism  businesses in the  district that are  dependent on                                                               
salmon fishing  and thus  are greatly  affected by  early fishing                                                               
closures.     She   suggested  the   division  should   make  its                                                               
determination based on  the actual initial runs  to protect small                                                               
businesses in the area.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BROOKOVER acknowledged  the aforementioned  issue garners  a                                                               
great deal of discussion when decisions are made.  He remarked:                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     ... a different  situation then we have  this year [is]                                                                    
     where we  do have  a projection  for Deshka  that's ...                                                                    
     let say  it's this year's projection,  just under goal.                                                                    
     And  maybe  even  recognizing   that  that  the  Deshka                                                                    
     forecast tends to  over forecast, and we have  a lot of                                                                    
     uncertainty, maybe we would have  allowed the season to                                                                    
     start, perhaps  with restrictions, but start  with some                                                                    
     harvest  opportunities.   I could  see  us making  that                                                                    
     decision, in a  case where, for the  past several years                                                                    
     we've  achieved  that goal,  and,  and  don't have  any                                                                    
     other  indications that,  you know,  strong indications                                                                    
     that that  forecast may be  right or, or  possibly over                                                                    
     forecasting.  Now that's  a very different circumstance                                                                    
     than  what we  had  this  year.   This  year we've  had                                                                    
     declining runs, and .... we're  missing goals and we're                                                                    
     missing  them repeatedly  and the  [Board of  Fisheries                                                                    
     has] designated  seven of the  stocks in  northern Cook                                                                    
     Inlet as  stocks of concern.   ...  So, when  we took a                                                                    
     broader-based  picture of  the Susitna,  it was  pretty                                                                    
     dire,  and when  we look  out even  further across  the                                                                    
     state,  at  what's  happening   now  in  Southeast,  in                                                                    
     Kodiak, and  Western Alaska,  it's not good.   ...   We                                                                    
     recognize  the importance  of the  businesses and  the,                                                                    
     and  the economic  value in  the Valley.   At  the same                                                                    
     time, we're charged with  managing for conserving these                                                                    
     stocks, we want  these stocks to be  maintained for the                                                                    
     benefit of those businesses in the future ....                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:46:21 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  TARR asked  whether  there is  impact  aid or  disaster                                                               
relief for businesses affected by closures.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER advised the division  was contacted by residents in                                                               
the  [Mat-Su]   Valley  regarding  the  economic   costs  of  the                                                               
decision;  however, he  said  he  was unaware  of  "any steps  to                                                               
render aid."                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   TALERICO  [directed   attention  to   Table  2.-                                                               
Estimated number  of Deshka  River Chinook  ... ,  page 4  of the                                                               
memorandum] and noted  in 2008, the run was less  than 10,000; in                                                               
2009, the run was  12,722; in 2010, the run was  over 22,000.  He                                                               
asked  what management  measures were  taken by  the division  at                                                               
that time to increase the return.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER  was unsure  what exactly  was done  in 2009.   The                                                               
division began taking more severe  restrictions in about 2011 and                                                               
2013, and  he expressed  his belief  the division  took emergency                                                               
order action during the season in 2009.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:48:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  SHOWER surmised  ADF&G  has great  concern about  salmon                                                               
stocks  and questioned  why  the division  would  not consider  a                                                               
broader  approach to  its restrictions  on commercial  fisheries.                                                               
He asked:                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     ...  why  would  we  not  shut  down  broader  sections                                                                    
     further  south, [sections]  that the  fish have  to get                                                                    
     through for the returns?                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER responded  the harvest of northern  Cook Inlet king                                                               
salmon  is   focused  in  the  northern   district  by  "inriver"                                                               
fisheries and  commercial fisheries.   The  sport harvest  in the                                                               
[Mat-Su] Valley  streams has declined  from 30,000 fish  to 3,000                                                               
in  the   last  20  years,   due  to  poor  performance   and  to                                                               
restrictions placed  on the fishery.   In contrast,  the northern                                                               
district set net harvest is about  2,000 to 2,500 fish; also, the                                                               
central  and lower  Cook Inlet  commercial  fisheries and  marine                                                               
sport fisheries in Anchor Point  and Kachemak Bay also catch king                                                               
salmon.  However,  genetics studies show a low  number of Susitna                                                               
fish in the aforementioned fisheries.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR SHOWER remarked:                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     ... if our concern is  to increase the stocks for later                                                                    
     use  for not  only commercial,  but sports  fishing and                                                                    
     the   economic  impact,   we  might   consider  broader                                                                    
     restrictions  than  just   the  northern  tier  because                                                                    
     clearly, anything  that's taken out, especially  in the                                                                    
     commercial nets,  could easily  be coming to  the north                                                                    
     side as well as all the  way up and down the inlets and                                                                    
     other places ....                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:52:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  TARR  asked  whether   the  department  has  sufficient                                                               
resources to find answers to this problem.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER  acknowledged the  less information  the department                                                               
has  the  more conservative  fisheries  management  will be,  and                                                               
better information  will provide more precise  levels of harvest.                                                               
[In 2013],  ADF&G developed the [Chinook  Salmon Stock Assessment                                                               
and Research Plan,  2013,] that was funded for two  years at $7.5                                                               
million each year,  and which enabled the department  to study 12                                                               
indicator stocks.   He described the work that was  funded - some                                                               
of  which related  to  the  Susitna River  -  and other  studies;                                                               
however,  the money  was spent  and in  fact, some  projects have                                                               
been abandoned, such  as the Nushakgak River  capture to estimate                                                               
drainage-wide escapement  of king  salmon so  that data  could be                                                               
compared to  sonar counts  in the Nushakgak  River.   Also, after                                                               
capital funds  were exhausted, the division  reallocated funds to                                                               
the Susitna mainstem portion of  the work, but the Yentna portion                                                               
remains unfunded.  He concluded  the division has enough money to                                                               
manage the stocks,  but not everything possible is  being done to                                                               
"do a better job of providing harvest opportunity."                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:55:16 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  recalled last year the  [Board of Fisheries                                                               
(BOF),  ADF&G], extended  commercial  fishing  operations for  an                                                               
extra week in  August.  He surmised BOF  determined the extension                                                               
was "a  sustainable proposal  and it  would not  adversely affect                                                               
the coho run in, in the Kenai."  Representative Birch continued:                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     Very  shortly  thereafter,  there  was  a  proposal  to                                                                    
     increase  the bag  limit for  sports fish  from two  to                                                                    
     three,  and that,  in  turn,  was being  unsustainable.                                                                    
     ...   How  do you  make that  judgement call  between a                                                                    
     sustainable fishery,  ... how does it  change that fast                                                                    
     over a day?                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. KELLEY  provided a detailed  description of  possible reasons                                                               
for the aforementioned decision.  He concluded:                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     ... the  department presents  the data  such as  it is,                                                                    
     and the  board makes determinations, and  I wouldn't, I                                                                    
     wouldn't be the  one to second-guess what  the Board of                                                                    
     Fisheries did.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH restated his concern.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:57:58 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLEY directed  attention  to a  document  included in  the                                                               
committee packet  entitled, "Upper  Cook Inlet  Salmon Escapement                                                               
Summary  (2017)."   Turning to  the topic  of sockeye  salmon, he                                                               
informed the  committee the division  monitors sockeye  salmon in                                                               
the Kenai and  Kasilof [rivers] and maintains three  weirs in the                                                               
Susitna  and Yentna  drainages  at Judd  Lake,  Larson Lake,  and                                                               
Chelatna  Lake.   Weir and  sonar monitoring  indicated in  2017,                                                               
escapement  goals  were  met  (slide  1).   Slide  2  listed  the                                                               
Commercial  Harvest Summary  (2017), and  he pointed  out overall                                                               
sockeye salmon  harvests are less  than historical  averages; for                                                               
example,  the  drift  gillnet fishery  harvest  for  sockeye  was                                                               
881,000, which was less than  the 2007-2016 average of 1,700,000.                                                               
Slide 3 was  a map of the central and  northern districts.  Slide                                                               
4 was a  map of drift areas 1 and  2; slide 5 was a  map of drift                                                               
gillnet corridors.   Slide  6 illustrated  graphs of  the sockeye                                                               
salmon escapement data collected  by weir technology at Chelatna,                                                               
Judd, and  Larson lakes.   He explained  - unlike king  salmon in                                                               
2017 - sockeye salmon numbers  were within escapement goal ranges                                                               
for the aforementioned three stocks.   Slide 7 entitled, "Central                                                               
District Drift Gillnet Management Plan,"  was an excerpt from the                                                               
management plan  indicating the  division's timeline  for certain                                                               
activities.  Slides  8 and 9 illustrated work areas  in the drift                                                               
fishery during  July and August,  2017.  Slide 10  entitled, "Sea                                                               
Surface  Temperature Anomaly,"  pictured the  area known  as "the                                                               
blob" in the Pacific Ocean.  Mr. Kelley remarked:                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     One of  the questions  ... [heard  commonly and  at the                                                                    
     meeting today] is  "Why are we having  these periods of                                                                    
     reduced productivity?",  and, you know, as  a scientist                                                                    
     it's  hard for  me to  say,  "It's all  because of  the                                                                    
     blob."   That wouldn't  be true, but  the blob  ... did                                                                    
     affect  productivity  for   salmon  species  and  other                                                                    
     species and  we're dealing  with that.   ...   And this                                                                    
     picture happened  to be taken  in, in May of  2015, ...                                                                    
     [when] juvenile salmon that entered  the Gulf of Alaska                                                                    
     began their  adult rearing time  in marine  waters were                                                                    
     encountered immediately by [the  blob, and the blob] is                                                                    
     a  very  challenging  bit  of ocean  on  a  very  large                                                                    
     geographic  scale  and  it  certainly  has  impacts  on                                                                    
     salmon production throughout  the state, [in] Southeast                                                                    
     Alaska, through Cook Inlet, and outward to Kodiak ....                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:04:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PARISH  returned attention  to slide 10  and asked                                                               
for clarification of the illustrated abnormal temperatures.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. KELLEY explained  the zero point on the colored  scale is the                                                               
average  temperature, and  the darkest  red color  is plus  three                                                               
degrees.    In  further  response to  Representative  Parish,  he                                                               
estimated  the  exact  period  of  time  [the  temperatures  were                                                               
recorded] was about 15 years.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  has heard new technology  is now tracking                                                               
fish in  the marine  environment and  asked whether  the division                                                               
has data on where Mat-Su fish go during their time in the ocean.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. KELLEY  advised ADF&G does  not deploy marine  telemetry tags                                                               
but  does  perform  wild  stock tagging  for  Chinook  salmon  in                                                               
Southeast Alaska  and in other  fisheries.  Another  method ADF&G                                                               
uses  to  determine where  stocks  go  is through  genetic  stock                                                               
identification;  by sampling  various  salmon species  throughout                                                               
the  Gulf  of  Alaska  and  the  Bering  Sea,  ADF&G  uses  stock                                                               
separation  and composition  estimates of  given stocks  based on                                                               
genetic stock composition identification data.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:09:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  TARR asked  for clarification  of the  drift areas  and                                                               
conservation corridors illustrated on slides 4 and 5.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLEY said  upper Cook  Inlet  fisheries are  managed by  a                                                               
variety of  management plans adopted  by BOF and  based primarily                                                               
on  run times  and  location.   The two  main  tools for  fishery                                                               
management are:   time - when gear is allowed  in the water; area                                                               
-  where the  gear can  be deployed.   Therefore,  depending upon                                                               
what stocks  are of concern  for allocation or  conservation, the                                                               
division  determines where  the stocks  are at  a given  point in                                                               
time.  The maps depict the  "pattern" of area; for example, early                                                               
in the  season the drift  gillnet fishery is  open district-wide,                                                               
however, as  fish -  such as  Mat-Su fish  - are  passing through                                                               
certain areas,  management plans specify that  only corridors are                                                               
open  for fishing.   Corridors  can also  be expanded  at certain                                                               
times, as shown on slide 5.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR TARR  surmised fishing is  limited by corridors  and the                                                               
season; for  example, fishing is  available in the  Kenai section                                                               
or in the expanded Kenai corridor later in the [season].                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLEY  said, "In  general,  that's  correct."   He  further                                                               
explained another management  tool is the size  [of the fishery].                                                               
The  Kenai   River  produces  the   largest  sockeye   run  thus,                                                               
especially for  the gillnet fishery,  management plans  are based                                                               
on Kenai River  sockeye abundance; for example,  1.6 million fish                                                               
and above allows for more district-wide openings.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:14:19 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   PARISH  returned   attention  to   the  document                                                               
identified by a map of the  Susitna River drainage and said Table                                                               
X [slide 2] indicated for the  last two years there are no counts                                                               
for [five] streams.  He concluded  the likelihood of a stream not                                                               
being   monitored   has   tripled   in  the   past   ten   years.                                                               
Representative  Parish  asked  if   instability  in  funding  has                                                               
affected ADF&G's ability to perform its mission.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. BROOKOVER  answered that  Table X  escapement counts  for the                                                               
Susitna and  west Cook  Inlet drainages  are conducted  mostly by                                                               
aerial survey, thus  are not constrained by the  budget; in fact,                                                               
no-count situations  are primarily a function  of weather, water,                                                               
and other natural  conditions.  However, as a  result of depleted                                                               
capital funds  - for the Susitna  drainage as a whole  - in 2018,                                                               
the division  will use sportfish  funds for the  mainstem Susitna                                                               
mark-recapture  work  on the  Susitna  and  the Yentna  [rivers],                                                               
because there  is not  enough money to  conduct the  inriver work                                                               
that was begun in 2013.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:17:59 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH questioned how  ADFG determines the priority                                                               
of one fishery above that of another.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BROOKOVER   advised  commercial  and  sport   fisheries  are                                                               
fundamentally  different;   a  sport   fishery  is   managed  for                                                               
stability, and to do so  the division does not intensively manage                                                               
a sport fishery by emergency  orders but follows management plans                                                               
created by  BOF.   For example,  due to  the variability  in coho                                                               
returns, the division relies on  existing seasons and bag limits,                                                               
and   makes  adjustments   in  response   to  data   provided  by                                                               
monitoring;  in northern  Cook Inlet  monitoring  is provided  by                                                               
weirs  on the  Deshka, the  Little Susitna,  Jim Creek,  and Fish                                                               
Creek,  and  by  aerial  surveys.     The  division  will  adjust                                                               
restrictions  if seasonal  counts are  lower or  higher than  the                                                               
goals for those  systems.  Commercial fisheries  are managed more                                                               
intensively through management plans crafted by BOF.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. KELLEY agreed with Mr.  Brookover and stressed ADF&G is bound                                                               
by management plans adopted by  BOF.  In the aforementioned case,                                                               
the  drift fishery  is specifically  managed to  pass upper  Cook                                                               
Inlet and  Susitna River salmon  stocks at certain  times through                                                               
the  previously  identified corridors.    Although  there are  no                                                               
mandatory closures after August 1,  typically in August the drift                                                               
net fishery would  have district-wide periods [of  closures].  At                                                               
that time,  coho escapement counts  were lagging  thus management                                                               
action was taken;  working together, [the Division  of Sport Fish                                                               
and the Division of Commercial  Fisheries] decided to take action                                                               
and on August 7, 10, and  14, the drift fishery was restricted to                                                               
drift area 1  (shown on the document entitled,  "Upper Cook Inlet                                                               
Salmon Escapement Summary (2017), slide 4).                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:22:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  TARR  returned  attention to  the  [document  entitled,                                                               
"Upper  Cook Inlet  Salmon Escapement  Summary (2017)],  slide 7,                                                               
and read as follows:                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     [States that  the department]  shall manage  [the drift                                                                    
     gillnet fishery]  to minimize  the harvest  of Northern                                                                    
     District and  Kenai River coho salmon  to provide sport                                                                    
     and [guided]  sport fishermen a  reasonable opportunity                                                                    
     to harvest these stocks.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR TARR  surmised the division follows  the management plan                                                               
for time periods  and areas eligible for fishing.   She asked for                                                               
clarification of an "option for a third period."                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLEY  stated  regulatory periods  for  the  drift  gillnet                                                               
fishery  are Mondays  and Thursdays;  an additional  third period                                                               
refers to a fishing period open  during a given week, in addition                                                               
to the Monday  or Thursday regular periods.   In further response                                                               
to Co-Chair  Tarr, he said  "AP Section" represents  Anchor Point                                                               
Section.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR TARR concluded the July  16-31 timeframe [shown on slide                                                               
7], is "a very fluid, or  dynamic kind of management regime where                                                               
it's all as, as escapement goals  are being met, [and] that's how                                                               
you're ... in real time, making those decisions."                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLEY stated  the  tiered Kenai  sockeye  run is  evaluated                                                               
twice per year, first in pre-season.   For example, [on April 27,                                                               
2018]  the division  expects  the  Kenai sockeye  run  to be  2.5                                                               
million fish, which would be within  the middle tier level of 2.3                                                               
million to  4.6 million fish.   The  Kenai run will  be evaluated                                                               
from  test data  for  sockeye salmon  abundance in-season  around                                                               
July 19, 20, or 21, and the  size of the run will determine which                                                               
tier management restrictions are applicable.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  TARR questioned  whether  there are  no mandatory  area                                                               
restrictions to regular periods from  August 1 through 15 because                                                               
the division expects its goals to have been met.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. KELLEY  said either the goals  have been met or  there are no                                                               
concerns.   He  stressed  the division  makes  the most  informed                                                               
decision it can based upon  in-season data; in fact, the division                                                               
is not  bound by the  tiers, but  during the season  monitors the                                                               
Kenai River sockeye salmon escapement  counts by sonar.  In 2017,                                                               
the in-season sonar counts were  lagging, and the division closed                                                               
the  drift fishery  and  the eastside  setnet  fisheries; as  the                                                               
counts increased, fishing was opened on July 29, 2017.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CO-TARR noted during the week of July 9 there was a third                                                                       
period.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. KELLEY said correct.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:30:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
Resources Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 2:30 p.m.                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HRES Matsu Salmon - ADFG Background Information 4.27.18.pdf HRES 4/27/2018 1:00:00 PM
Mat-Su Salmon
HRES Matsu Salmon - ADFG Background Information Part Two - 4.27.18.pdf HRES 4/27/2018 1:00:00 PM
Matsu Salmon
HRES Matsu Salmon - ADFG Background Information Part Three 4.27.18.pdf HRES 4/27/2018 1:00:00 PM
Matsu Salmon