Compromise helps trollers, protects anglers

Fisheries Board member John Jensen, of Petersburg, and chairman Karl Johnstone, of Anchoage, review documents during their meeting in Ketchikan. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld.

Sport fishermen and chum trollers have reached a compromise in a salmon allocation battle in northern Southeast.

Chum salmon trolling is relatively new in Southeast.

“It’s only in the last 20 years, but particularly in the last four or five, the trollers have really been able to target hatchery chums,” said Eric Jordan, who represented the Chum Trollers Association at the Ketchikan Board of Fisheries meeting.

He said the Icy Strait and North Chatham Strait fisheries were worth $1 million to trollers last year.

They wanted the fishery to grow. So they put a pair of proposals, numbers 325 and 326, before the Fisheries Board.

One expanded spring harvest areas in Icy and Chatham straits. The other added a summer troll area in upper Stephens Passage, which is much closer to Juneau.

That didn’t go over well with capital city anglers. Larry Edfelt of Juneau-based Territorial Sportsmen says the plans encroached on popular fishing areas.

“We wanted to protect the king and coho access. And we were afraid that if you put 150 trollers into the north end of the Juneau area that a lot of juvenile kings and feeder kings and cohos would be caught in addition to a lot of chums,” Edfelt said.

Rather than butt heads before the board, they decided to work together on a compromise. The commercial group gave up much of what it wanted, while the sportsmen dropped objections to the remaining fishing grounds.

Jordan said it was a good deal for chum trollers.

“We ended up with less area and less time than we wanted in the new area on the Admiralty shore. But we figure we’ll have an even higher percentage of hatchery fish,” Jordan said.

He said the compromise allows trollers to target hatchery chums and hatchery kings, switching from one to the other as caps are reached.

Edfelt said the sportsmen are satisfied, because they were able to keep trollers out of popular fishing areas off the northern part of Juneau.

“They agreed to not only a reduced area but (also) a four-day fishery that did not include Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Edfelt said.

The measure has a sunset clause, so the expansion will come back before the Fisheries Board in three years. And there’s more to the agreement.

“The chum trollers have agreed to not try to expand that fishery without gaining the consensus of the Juneau sport fishermen and charter fishermen, as well as the gillnetters,” he said.

The compromise is one of a number that developed during – or leading up to – the Fisheries Board meeting.

Jordan said that’s becoming more common. He says it’s good for Alaska’s fisheries.

“If the interest groups will get together and solve their own problems, as much as they have to compromise, they usually end up with a better deal than if the seven dark angels of the Board of Fisheries have to swoop in and decide it for you,” he said.

He credits the board, particularly Chairman Karl Johnstone, for encouraging negotiations.

Johnstone said he puts the proposals with the most impact before the whole board, rather than running them through a committee. He said that seems to quell some of the controversy.

“And the wind kind of goes out be everybody has pretty much decided one way or the other what’s happened. And the rest of the proposals are available and people seem to be more conciliatory,” the retired judge said.

Gillnetters, Fish and Game Department staff and a charter group joined the chum trollers and the sportsmen in drafting this particular compromise.

Their measure passed the board on a unanimous vote.

Find out what else passed and failed.

Check out earlier fish board reports:

Sides in herring debate take case to Board of Fish

Board allows Jensen to vote on herring issues

Fish board OKs some Sitka herring changes

Seiners out of West Behm Canal herring fishery

State says per diem charges were proper

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