The Alaska Board of Fisheries has decided not to restrict the Kenai Peninsula's popular salmon dipnetting fisheries.
The seven-member board discussed and voted on dozens of dipnet proposals Thursday and Friday. It either voted down or took no action on dozens of proposals including reducing the household limit to 10 fish per season in the Cook Inlet personal-use salmon fisheries, and requiring dipnetters to take a class and obtain a education card before receiving a dipnet permit.
Thousands of Alaska households participate in Cook Inlet's resident-only dipnet fisheries. State records show that nearly 400,000 salmon in the Kenai River dipnet fishery were harvested last July.
Many of the proposals to restrict Peninsula dipnetting were filed by Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishermen who are worried about the rapid growth of the peninsula's dipnet fisheries and the increased fishing time and geographic restrictions that are making it more difficult for commercial fishermen to stay in business in Cook Inlet.
On Thursday, fisheries board member John Jensen, a Petersburg commercial fisherman, called dipnetting a "subsistence fishery on steroids" and said he doesn't want commercial fishing families to be harmed. Jensen also said he remains unsure of how to control the dipnet fisheries' growth "without creating chaos."
Wasilla dipnetter Ken Frederico called the board vote results a "slam dunk" for dipnet fishermen.
Frederico, who runs the South-Central Alaska Dipnetting Association, said he agrees that restrictions on the dipnet fishery might be needed if it continues to grow. "Commercial fishing is a viable industry and we have to respect that," he said. "But the (state) constitution says the resources are for all of the people," he said.
The board is taking up proposals involving upper Cook Inlet commercial, personal-use, subsistence and sport fisheries at its meeting at the Egan Center. The meetings began Feb. 20 and end today.
Reach Elizabeth Bluemink at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4317.