The Board of Fisheries has voted to delay a decision on how to manage the struggling Nushagak king salmon run.
The board voted unanimously to postpone action on three proposals to modify the longstanding management plan. It will also delay a decision on the Department of Fish and Game’s draft action plan to protect kings.
The state designated Nushagak kings as a stock of concern in October, and the department created the action plan within a month. It was published on Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving.
Written comments and public testimony on Wednesday overwhelmingly asked for more time to consider the proposed king salmon management plan, which could have big impacts in both the Nushagak District and the other districts in the fishery. The 15 options proposed by Fish and Game range from continuing under current regulations to closing the fishery until a certain date.
Board Chair Marit Carlson-Van Dort recommended delaying a decision. She urged stakeholders to come up with comprehensive recommendations on how to address the king’s stock of concern designation within the management plan.
“I hope that if the board chooses to agree with my recommendation, that that time be used to really provide – dig in and provide good recommendations to the board, support and talk to each other and collaborate in that effort,” she said.
Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang said the department supports delaying action on the draft plan. But he added that staff put a lot of effort into creating the draft in time for the meeting.
“I pushed my staff really hard to get this thing done in time for this meeting,” he said. “I think they should be commended for their actions to get this thing in front of you. I understand the public’s concern that it came up right before Thanksgiving. But I want to make sure that people understand that the decision here is to grant more time, not because the department was delinquent in trying to get this out in time.”
Vincent-Lang said delaying a decision about the action plan will cost the department between $20,000 and $25,000. He also asked the board to consider arranging meetings so the department has more time to develop action plans in the future.
People will be able to submit public comments on the action plan and proposals ahead of the statewide meeting in March. At that meeting, there will be a Committee of the Whole discussion on recommendations by local advisory committees and other stakeholders.