Legislature(2023 - 2024)GRUENBERG 120
01/31/2023 10:00 AM House FISHERIES
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|Presentation(s): Yukon Kuskokwim Fisheries Collapse Update
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES January 31, 2023 10:00 a.m. DRAFT MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Sarah Vance, Chair Representative Kevin McCabe Representative CJ McCormick Representative Ben Carpenter Representative Louise Stutes MEMBERS ABSENT All members present OTHER LEGISLATORS PRESENT Representative Mike Cronk COMMITTEE CALENDAR PRESENTATION(S): YUKON KUSKOKWIM FISHERIES COLLAPSE UPDATE - HEARD PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION No previous action to record WITNESS REGISTER DOUG VINCENT-LANG, Commissioner Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) Juneau, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Gave a Yukon Kuskokwim Fisheries Collapse Update presentation. ACTION NARRATIVE 10:00:12 AM CHAIR SARAH VANCE called the House Special Committee on Fisheries meeting to order at 10:00 a.m. Representatives Carpenter, Stutes, and Vance were present at the call to order. Representatives McCabe and McCormick arrived as the meeting was in progress. ^PRESENTATION(S): YUKON KUSKOKWIM FISHERIES COLLAPSE UPDATE PRESENTATION(S): YUKON KUSKOKWIM FISHERIES COLLAPSE UPDATE 10:02:04 AM CHAIR VANCE announced that the only order of business would be the Yukon Kuskokwim Fisheries Collapse Update presentation. 10:02:17 AM The committee took an at-ease from 10:02 a.m. to 10:09 a.m. 10:09:02 AM DOUG VINCENT-LANG, Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), gave a Yukon Kuskokwim Fisheries Collapse Update presentation via PowerPoint [hardcopy included in the committee packet], entitled "Status of Arctic Yukon and Kuskokwim (AYK) Fisheries." He started on slide 2, which shows a map of Alaska and the Salmon Management Areas. He explained there are also treaty obligations when salmon spawn in both the U.S. and Canada. 10:11:42 AM COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG continued on slide 3 showing a bar graph of "Yukon River King Salmon Drainagewide Total Run," which shows salmon run size fluctuations, and he pointed out that in the last several years there has been a decline in king salmon production which has been observed statewide. He mentioned resulting restrictions being put in place. Also, under the Pacific Salmon Treaty there is an obligation to pass up to 55,000 fish into Canada. This obligation hasn't been met in recent years, as shown on the graph. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG continued on slide 4, showing a graphic of "Yukon River King Salmon Harvest," and he pointed out that it has failed to meet the amount necessary for subsistence. It has been met only twice over the past 15 years, and a result of that is the treaty taking precedence over subsistence. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG moved onto slide 5, which shows a bar graph of "Yukon River Summer Chum Salmon Total Run," and the difference on this graph is that it shows fish that spawn entirely in U.S. waters. It shows very poor escapement even though it was expected to be average. 10:15:19 AM COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG showed slide 6, "Yukon River Summer Chum Salmon Harvest by Type." He explained that ADF&G has been meeting amounts reasonably necessary for subsistence (ANS), but from 2020 to 2022 there was severely restricted commercial and subsistence fishing, and in 2021 to 2022 there was not any commercial fishing. He moved to slide 7, "Yukon River Fall Chum Salmon Run Size." He pointed out, like summer runs, the failed escapement goals from 2020 through 2022. He noted that 2022 showed improvements which indicate a slight rebuilding. He then discussed slide 8, "Yukon River Fall Chum Salmon Subsistence and Personal Use Harvests," which, again, failed escapement goals from 2020 to 2022. He pointed out a chart on slide 9, "Kuskokwim River King Salmon Escapement, 1990-2022," which shows leading escapement goals in the last ten years. 10:17:57 AM COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG moved to a graph on slide 10, "Kuskokwim River King Salmon Subsistence Harvest, 1990-2022." This graph shows the current ANS range, and that although escapement goals are being met, ADF&G is not meeting ANS ranges. He noted the jurisdictional issues in the lower part of the Kuskokwim River that also contribute to the outcome. He displayed slide 11, "Kuskokwim River Chum Salmon," and said this is similar to what has been seen in the Yukon River: 2020 through 2022 were all way below average in terms of returns and ANS. He highlighted the graphs on slide 12, "Kuskokwim River Coho Salmon," which show a reduced production rate from 2018 forward. Slide 13, "Kuskokwim River Sockeye Salmon," he called a "bright spot" in that sockeye salmon perform well across coastal Western Alaska. He moved to slide 14, "Summary," which shows reduced productivity, results of reduction, and increased productivity - all learned in prior slides. He stressed the impact on local communities, cultural practices, and economy. He then paused for questions from committee members. 10:22:29 AM REPRESENTATIVE MCCABE asked why the federal government has control over the king salmon on the lower Kuskokwim River. 10:22:47 AM COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG answered that last spring, the U.S. Government sued him [as Commissioner of ADF&G], and the State of Alaska, claiming the state's management was interfering with the management of the Federal Subsistence Board. A federal judge in Alaska has restrained ADF&G from issuing emergency orders in the lower part of the Kuskokwim River until the case is heard. In response to a follow-up question, he said it is an injunction he suspects would be put in place this year until the case is heard. He also added that the Kuskokwim River is a navigable waterway that is owned by the state but is adjacent to or near abutting federal land. REPRESENTATIVE MCCABE asked if the "404 primacy" that the state is working on would be helpful for a resolution. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG responded that the state believes in statehood compact, and as a result the authority to manage fish and game resources is the state's - not the Federal Government's. He said ADF&G will fight to maintain this authority. In response to a follow-up question, Commissioner Vincent-Lang explained ADF&G wants to manage the salmon resources for the sustainability of the resource as well as the fisheries that are dependent upon that resource. The minimum that the department is trying to get back is the minimum into that escapement goal range. He made it clear the state does not believe these resources are in danger of extinction. He went on to explain several of the things ADF&G is moving forward on, ranging from using Covid-19 funds, working with governmental organizations, implementing a marine science program, and utilizing money in the budget to extend into the north Gulf of Alaska to find out if there are common linkages. He noted that projects also require cooperation of other international entities. REPRESENTATIVE CARPENTER asked for more details on the evidence that points to impact on survival and what the science program has learned specifically. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG answered that the evidence being seen is that salmon are generally coming back at reduced numbers, size, and younger ages - the latter adding to the indication that something is affecting most fish out there. He added that warmer waters are a contributing factor. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG continued on slide 16, "Bycatch Task Force," and "Other Actions." He confirmed the use of the recommendations within the task force to determine actions to be taken by ADF&G. REPRESENTATIVE STUTES said she thought it may be important to recognize different sectors that were represented in the Bycatch Task Force. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG responded that the task force is made up of a wide range of individuals across the state of Alaska including members of various commercial and sport fishing groups and industries, and the AYK region. In approximately nine months the group conducted up to 50 meetings. As a result, he opined, ADF&G came up with a set of solid recommendations. REPRESENTATIVE STUTES asked if the Bycatch Task Force should remain in place permanently, instead of doing the job and then being dissolved. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG responded that the conclusion regarding that has not been made yet; ADF&G does not know if there will be anything more to report to the Task Force until some of the recommendations are implemented. Other actions ADF&G has taken was that they recognized chum salmon was a huge issue in the Bering Sea, and in the past year worked with the Bering Sea trawl fisheries to learn about self-regulation, which resulted in significant reductions of chum salmon bycatch. He said ADF&G is asking the industry to look at innovative ways to reduce their bycatch of all species. REPRESENTATIVE STUTES asked how ADF&G is working with the long line or pot fisherman insofar as their bycatch situation. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG explained that ADF&G is looking at electronic monitoring and increasing observer coverage to avoid bycaught fish, and to get better estimates of what is happening in those two gear types [long line and pot fishing]. In response to a follow-up question asking if there is observer coverage required on long line or pot fishing in the Bering Sea, Commissioner Vincent-Lang responded some of the bigger fisheries have coverage, but the smaller and medium size do not have 100 percent coverage. REPRESENTATIVE MCCABE asked about the difference between bycatch in a pot, and bycatch in trawl fisheries. He also questioned the bycatch mortality in the different kinds of fisheries. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG responded the methods are all unique in how fish are caught. In response to bycatch mortality, he explained it depends on a wide range of issues associated with the gear. He continued on slide 17, which highlights "Fisheries Disasters," and "Working with Partners to Address Science Issues Inriver." The slide highlights the development of spend plans, disaster funding, and inriver studies with partners in hopes of affecting returns and survival. REPRESENTATIVE CARPENTER inquired what percentage the research portion is of this spending plan, what percentage remains in administration for research, and what portion is planned to go into individual fishers for the disaster relief. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG explained that ADF&G have been successful in getting additional federal money though the Pacific Salmon Treaty; there is money going into answering these questions. He then responded that 15 to 20 percent of the money is going out to non-research. CHAIR VANCE asked Commissioner Vincent-Lang to speak briefly about the spend plan, positive changes for Alaska, and specifically, how distribution will occur for communities' subsistence users. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG acknowledged the frustration over Pacific states being the designated federal entity to develop spend plans, and the amount of time it takes. He said ADF&G has taken steps with the Pacific states to speed the process up. Public review also plays a major part in how the money is spent, although it takes more time. In response to a follow-up question, Commissioner Vincent-Lang confirmed positive responses to community involvement in the spend plans. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG continued on the final slide, 18, - "Other Efforts," and "Federal" - summarizing the number of entities ADF&G is working with while being open to working with other partners. CHAIR VANCE asked whether the inriver incubation boxes would be under the educational permit system. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG responded it is through the hatchery permitting program. CHAIR VANCE asked if there was a difference between a full scale hatchery and the incubation boxes that are being proposed. COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG explained that survival could be increased by using the incubation boxes. CHAIR VANCE commented on having some members of the Bycatch Task Force present on their work in the near future to get a better understanding as to what the task force has done, and how the state can proceed. 11:14:40 AM ADJOURNMENT There being no further business before the committee, the House Special Committee on Fisheries meeting was adjourned at 11:15 a.m.
|(H)FSH ADF&G Presentation on AYK Fisheries 1.31.23.pdf
HFSH 1/31/2023 10:00:00 AM
(H)FSH ADF&G Presentation on AYK Fisheries 1.31.23