Further restrictions on Copper River commercial fishery are unwarranted

Forecast model may be off more than any other forecast model in history - By Bruce Cain

Editor’s note: The following comments on the Copper River Chinook 2017 forecast were submitted to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, which is taking up the issue at a special meeting in Anchorage on May 17. Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten advised the Board of Fisheries on May 4 that he is denying the requested emergency petition from the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee seeking further restrictions on Chinook salmon in the Copper River commercial fishery, but the board has the option to consider the matter further.

My name is Bruce Cain, I serve as the President of the Copper Valley Chamber of Commerce. We represent nearly 200 businesses in the Copper Basin, many of which rely on the economic activity from the sport fishery, personal use fishery and the subsistence fisheries on the Copper River. The closures and restrictions on these fisheries based on the lowest forecast in the history of the Copper River have significant economic impacts to the economy of the Copper Basin. This includes loss of business to sport fishing guides, lodges, bed and breakfast, restaurants, fuel distributors, repair shops, grocery and support businesses. In addition the subsistence food supply of our families is at risk causing great suffering. Also there are tremendous economic losses caused by the restrictions on the commercial fishery that some of our members participate in.

The closures and restrictions based on the preseason forecast are summarized as I understand it as follows.

· Commercial fishery, extended inside closures including Egg Island and Softuk. Extended inside closure periods for the early season. Delaying the commercial opening from May 15 to May 18.

· Personal use fishery. Close to the taking of Chinook.

· Sport fishery. Closed to the taking of Chinook.

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· State Subsistence fishery dipnet Chinook season limit reduced from 5 to 2.

· State Subsistence fishwheel Chinook changed from basically no limit to limited to 2 per permit holder and wheels must be closely tended at all times the wheel is operational and chinook released that are over the limit. This constant monitoring is a restriction from the regulation that requires wheels be checked every 10 hours.

· Federal Subsistence (voluntary restrictions, requested by users and acted on by the Federal manager) rod and reel and dipnet Chinook season limit reduced from 5 to 2. Fishwheel, delay opening from May 15 to June 1.

We support the conservative approach to protecting our salmon stocks, however, we also require that the department use the best professional tools to base its management

decisions on. We are very concerned about the methodology used to generate the doomsday forecast for the 2017 Chinook run in the Copper River. My understanding is the forecast being used is based on the 2016 Chinook return. My biology book says that the forecast for Chinook should be based on the return 4-5 years ago.

The economic impacts from the actions taken based on this very questionable forecast are immense. All fishery participants are facing lost opportunity, our economies are facing severe negative impacts and even our food sources from subsistence are reduced as well as the state subsistence fish wheel.

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