Kenai Harbor in Cook Inlet is photographed on May 14, 2020. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Harbor in Cook Inlet is photographed on May 14, 2020. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

City of Kenai voices opposition to potential closure of federal Cook Inlet waters to salmon fishing

The council voted unanimously in support of the resolution.

The Kenai City Council formalized their opposition to the potential closure of federal waters in Cook Inlet to commercial salmon fishing during a special meeting Monday night.

The legislation, which was presented to the council by Mayor Brian Gabriel as Resolution 2020-89, specifically opposes “Alternative 4,” one of four proposed alternative amendments to the Fisheries Management Plan for Salmon Fisheries in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

According to the resolution memo, Alternative 4 would “effectively close the commercial salmon drift fishery in the Cook Inlet and force remaining processing plants to close.” The “whereas” statements in the resolution also acknowledge that most of the Cook Inlet Drift Fleet harvest occurs in the waters that would be closed if Alternative 4 was passed.

Other reasons for the council’s opposition to Alternative 4 include their claim that the decision is not based in science, that the loss of the Inlet’s drift gillnet fisher would cause job losses and that the drift gillnet fleet is “a critical component” of Kenai that positively contributes to the city’s history and culture, among other things.

Gabriel also voiced his concern that Alternative 4 was “interjected” at the last meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) on Oct. 12 and that closing the waters will negatively impact area fisheries.

“There’s sort of this domino effect that could take place … that if you eliminate this area of fishing for the drift fleet you’re eliminating the feedstock of product for the processors,” Gabriel said. “They’re private businesses; there’ll be no reason for them to stick around.”

Other alternatives include leaving this as-is and delegating specific management measures to the state.

Council member Henry Knackstedt proposed an amendment to the resolution, which was adopted, clarifying that the council has not considered which of the other alternatives should be adopted by the NPFMC.

The council voted unanimously in support of the resolution.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will take up similar legislation at their Dec. 1 meeting.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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