The Kenai/Soldotna Advisory Committee will meet on December 19, 2012, at Cook Inlet Aquaculture Building starting at 6:30PM, the following letter will be part of that discussion. Please attend if you are interested in the local AC supporting this.
Dear Governor Parnell,
We believe the Upper Cook Inlet Salmon Fishery management was mishandled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. We are writing to ask for your assistance in addressing our concerns and those brought to attention by other Alaskans. We are deeply concerned that management decisions made recently were taken in haste and that the Department did not react appropriately as new information was gathered during the 2012 season. We feel it is important that both your administration and the Legislature have all the facts and an unbiased, professional interpretation of them to review and determine the extent that management decisions made by both the Department and Board of Fish exacerbated the UCI disaster.
We are calling for an independent, third party, scientific/biological review of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s management of the Upper Cook Inlet fishery.
Both the sport and commercial fisheries in Upper Cook Inlet suffered restrictions and closures during the season that were similar to and exceeded restrictions levied in 2011. Just as in 2011, the current season appears to have met or exceeded the escapement goals for King salmon and exceeded the goals for Sockeye salmon. In fact the August 8th Emergency Order (2-KS-1-51-12) issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for the Kenai river notes that: “The DIDSON based King Salmon escapement will be larger than the last two years and will likely provide for an adequate spawning escapement based on comparison with previous years.” While meeting escapement goals could be taken as an indication of successful management of the fishery, in this context we believe it indicates something else entirely.
If decisions were made to close fisheries based on faulty or incomplete data then the Department’s actions contributed to the economic disaster that occurred this year in the Cook Inlet. Whether or not the Department relied on faulty or incomplete data is unclear. We believe the department acted improperly and with inadequate information when we see decisions based on DIDSON sonar counts while the Department has not released any sonar reports since 2007, no annual stock assessment reports since 2007, and numerous other technical data. Management decisions made affected users from Anchor Point to Talkeetna and beyond. The public is rightfully concerned when the decisions the Department makes are not clearly based on standards that have been through a thorough public review and vetting.
After two years of contentious management decisions and an increasing economic impact on thousands of Alaskans, we are convinced that it is time for the Legislature and your Administration to intervene. We ask that you initiate a third-party, independent scientific/biological review of the Department’s management of the Upper Cook Inlet fishery and identify steps that should be taken to correct shortfalls in not only our data collection, but management systems. While your announcement of $30 million for research is vital to the long-term health of our fisheries, tangible results will not be seen for years.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game must be held to the highest standards when managing the resources upon which the people of the state depend. When the department makes mistakes, those responsible must be held accountable and corrective steps must be implemented immediately before more damage is done. For these reasons we ask that you take action..
Further, this effort needs to be conducted in as public a manner as possible and individuals held accountable accordingly. Trust in our management system and decision making processes is very important as all users work to arrive at viable solutions, and the Department of Fish and Game must hold up their end of the bargain.