Legislature(2023 - 2024)GRUENBERG 120

01/31/2023 10:00 AM House FISHERIES

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Audio Topic
10:00:12 AM Start
10:02:04 AM Presentation(s): Yukon Kuskokwim Fisheries Collapse Update
11:14:40 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation: Yukon and Kuskokwim Fisheries TELECONFERENCED
Collapse Update by Commissioner Doug
Vincent-Lang, Department of Fish and Game
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES                                                                            
                        January 31, 2023                                                                                        
                           10:00 a.m.                                                                                           
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                                                                                   
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Special  Committee on  Fisheries meeting  was adjourned  at 11:15                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
(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