In a recent ruling by the ninth circuit court of appeals, the court ruled that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has been and is required to develop a fishery management plan for Cook Inlet. I see this as a huge win for the fish that migrate into Cook Inlet.
In the past (since back sometime in the 1980’s) the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has been tasked with this chore. The criteria for doing so were meant to include the 10 national standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act:
1. Prevent overfishing while achieving optimum yield.
2. Be based upon the best scientific information available.
3. Manage individual stocks as a unit throughout their range, to the extent practicable; interrelated stocks shall be managed as a unit or in close coordination.
4. Not discriminate between residents of different states; any allocation of privileges must be fair and equitable.
5. Where practicable, promote efficiency, except that no such measure shall have economic allocation as its sole purpose.
6. Take into account and allow for variations among and contingencies in fisheries, fishery resources, and catches.
7. Minimize costs and avoid duplications, where practicable.
8. Take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities to provide for the sustained participation of, and minimize adverse impacts to, such communities (consistent with conservation requirements).
9. Minimize bycatch or mortality from bycatch.
10. Promote safety of human life at sea.
Unfortunately most of these guidelines have not been adhered to for the most part due to the live for today and let someone else worry about it tomorrow mindset (political influences). It’s very sad to me that it has taken this long to get this figured out. Status quo has not been legal and will not be in the future. So hang on, change is coming, it’s better for the future of the fish-and without the fish what is Cook Inlet?
I for one am hoping that the fish will be here when my children get to my vintage. This as I see it is a very important step into assuring the fish will be here. In the past our major rivers that the fish return to spawn to and fry migrate out of have been grossly over escaped stressing the environment that they depend on for survival. Meanwhile the human component has been continuing to build expectations around the top end of the bell curve in the fish population. Myself as an active harvester of wild fish and game, I know that it’s easy to get caught up in the feeding frenzy when things are really good (I have done this more than once in my life — recently on my last moose hunt, I didn’t even see an animal, whereas in the past I could pretty much pick and choose).
Am I bummed? You damn right I am, but myself as a steward of nature resources know that’s the way the system works. I personally think that the last few seasons in Cook Inlet coming in a large percentage below the harvest projection are reflecting the years of abuse the river systems have endured with the overescapements in the past. Unfortunately for all of us, it’s going to take years for the rivers to heal. The life cycle of Salmon being what it is, hopefully before I hang up my cleats and take to my slippers and rocking chair things will get back on line. For those of you that think the way to manage fish is in the political arena, I ask you to pick up a paper or news cast and look at the political machine at its finest. The fish and we humans deserve better.
The change if allowed to follow the guidance of the nationally renowned Magnuson-Stevens fishery conservation management act is going to anger most short sighted users somewhat, only because the political machine has lead fish management miles away from the coarse it was mandated to follow. I myself have wants and needs, but know the difference. I am hoping that most that read this do also!
I am very passionate about our fish, so as not to bore you much more, May the fish be with us!