ALASKA MOVES AHEAD WITH CONSERVATION-BASED COHO PLANS
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is moving ahead with plans to manage coho salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska during 1998 aimed at allowing Alaskans full benefit of healthy Alaska-origin coho while taking appropriate steps to protect Canadian stocks for which there may be conservation concerns.
Conservation is not only our byword, it's the law, which is why most Alaska coho salmon stocks are healthy, said David Benton, Deputy Commissioner of Fish and Game. Part of that responsibility is to share the conservation burden, as any good neighbor would do. This plan appropriately responds to concerns about Canadian stocks and still allows Alaskans the opportunity to reap the benefit of our healthy stocks.
Southeast Alaska coho salmon stocks are generally in excellent condition and capable of supporting sustainable fisheries. Escapement counts on 12 Southeast coho indicator streams fell below goals only four out of 96 times between 1990 and 1997. Escapements exceeded the goal more than half the time.
As part of its plan to manage Southeast commercial and sport fisheries in 1998, Alaska has committed to closely monitor coho returns during the initial stages of the Southeast fishery. If run data in southern Southeast corresponds to the low levels observed in 1997, ADF&G managers will take prompt action, including closure of known mixed stock areas to the retention of coho salmon. Alaska fishery managers will remain in close contact with their Canadian counterparts throughout the season to ensure prompt communication of run information and enact appropriate conservation actions as necessary.
While Alaska intends to take responsible steps to protect weak Skeena River stocks, an ADF&G analysis identified no general coho crisis in the Northern Boundary area. The in-depth, scientific analysis made public three weeks ago found Alaska origin coho to be generally healthy and that low Skeena River coho escapement in 1997 may be an isolated event, not necessarily a sign that stocks are in trouble. Alaska's success in fishery management has come because we have avoided the rhetoric and instead make careful, measured, management decisions based on sound science, said David Benton, who serves as Alaska's delegate to the Pacific Salmon Commission.
We would rather take a surgical approach to address the coho issue. To accomplish this, we have proposed reductions in our fisheries based on in-season indicators and reciprocal action on the Canadian side of the border.
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Ted Savic contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.chum-bucket.com.
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