“Certainly the fishermen are concerned about their futures — and rightfully so,” Gray said. “This is uncharted territory for king salmon.”
King, or chinook, salmon are valuable. Recently they’ve been fetching in excess of $10 a pound for fishermen.
Sitka troll fisherman Tad Fujioka said in an interview Wednesday that closing fishing from March to July would be devastating.
“Almost all of the fishermen are Alaska residents that time of year, many of them from small communities. The fishery is right in front of Hoonah, right in front of Angoon,” Fujioka said. “Sweeping, big closures like that will really hurt the smaller communities.”
Tourism also is at stake.
Sitka charter boat captain Mike Sullivan told the board that proposals forcing non-residents to release any king salmon they catch would harm businesses across Southeast.
“If the charter industry suffers it will be hard for the fleet and this place to regain its reputation as an unparalleled fishing destination,” he said.
Each action plan focuses on a king salmon system and most have failed to meet their escapement goals.
Those goals represent the number of salmon that successfully return from the ocean to freshwater to spawn.
Researchers don’t know exactly the reason for the decline, only that it appears to be happening in the open ocean rather than state waters where Alaska’s salmon fisheries are managed.
Gray said the rest of the week will be intense back-and-forth between the board and select stakeholders and interest groups.
“The board takes their charge very seriously on stocks of concern,” he said. “Your guess is as good as mine as to where they might go.”