Kenai OKs objection to EEZ closure

The Kenai City Council unanimously passed legislation during their July 7 meeting stating their opposition to the closure.

The Upper Cook Inlet Economic Exclusion Zone can be seen highlighted in red. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The Upper Cook Inlet Economic Exclusion Zone can be seen highlighted in red. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Local governments are still trying to stop the closure of federal Cook Inlet waters to commercial salmon fishing. The Kenai City Council unanimously passed legislation during their July 7 meeting stating their opposition to the closure, which Mayor Brian Gabriel said will be sent directly to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The waters in question, called the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), run from south of Kalgin Island to about Anchor Point, and are a fishing ground for many of Cook Inlet’s drift net fleet. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) voted last December to recommend the closure as a “management” plan.

That option, called “Alternative Four,” has drawn criticism from several groups for being added for consideration just months before the council voted and because of the economic harm they say it would cause.

Among other things, the legislation approved by the council last week calls conclusions by the NPFMC that the closure would sustain community participation in the fishery and mitigate negative economic impacts to the city “unsubstantiated” and “likely untrue.”

It also says that sport, personal use and commercial fishery play a “key role” in Kenai’s history, society and economy and says that the City of Kenai was not consulted by the NPFMC regarding how the closure would impact the city.

“Closing of the fishery in the EEZ does not provide the greatest opportunity for harvest, and while closure does protect salmon, minimize regulatory burden, and avoid additional management jurisdictions, other paths forward could accomplish the same without the potential harm to the fishery participants and communities that rely on and support the fishery,” the legislation says.

The letter is the latest effort by local municipalities to voice their opposition to Alternative Four.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and the Kenai City Council both passed resolutions earlier this year asking newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Riamondo to veto the management council’s decision. Similar legislation opposing the closure was passed late last year by the council and by the assembly.

The council’s full July 7 meeting can be viewed on the City of Kenai’s YouTube channel.

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

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