The SSC, AP, and Council reviewed a preliminary draft of the environmental assessment and regulatory impact analysis (EA/RIR) that is being prepared to analyze the impacts of managing the salmon driftnet fishery in federal waters of Cook Inlet through the Council’s Salmon FMP. The Council also reviewed reports from the final meetings of the Cook Inlet Salmon Committee, in February and May 2020, which provide Committee recommendations on revising the alternatives under consideration. After its review, the Council confirmed the existing alternatives (provided below) for evaluation and requested staff move forward with development of a draft analysis for initial review at the October 2020 Council meeting.
The Cook Inlet salmon action was initiated in 2017 in response to a Ninth Circuit Court finding that the Salmon FMP was not in compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) because it excluded three traditional salmon net fisheries (Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, and South Alaska Peninsula) that overlap with portions of federal jurisdictional waters. The Court ruling was brought about by litigation from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA) and Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund (CIFF) who want federal management in Cook Inlet. At present, the Council is specifically addressing the Cook Inlet fishery. In December 2019, UCIDA/CIFF appealed to federal court to expedite completion of an amended FMP. In January 2020, the Court established a deadline of December 31, 2020 for final Council action, and gave no instruction on the content of the amendment.
Two approaches for managing Cook Inlet salmon fisheries are currently under consideration by the Council (Alternatives 2 and 3), and a “No action” alternative (Alternative 1) is provided for comparison. Under Alternative 2, management measures necessary for the federal waters salmon driftnet fishery would be delegated to the State, primarily, while under Alternative 3, all management would be done at the federal level. Driftnet fishery stakeholders have indicated their support for Alternative 2 because it would incorporate the State of Alaska’s widespread salmon data collection and inseason management capabilities into the fulfillment of federal management obligations.
In order to develop options for managing the Cook Inlet salmon fishery for the Council’s deliberations, the Council created the Cook Inlet Salmon Committee in 2018. The Council Chair appointed salmon driftnetters from Cook Inlet to the Committee, most of whom are also UCIDA members. Since then, Council and agency staff have worked with the Committee to develop recommendations for the Council. Progress on developing those recommendations was frequently constrained by the insistence of some Committee members that federal management be able to direct and override salmon fishery management actions by the State of Alaska. While this is permissible in federal waters, the Committee members also wanted the FMP to direct management of fisheries that operate solely in State jurisdictional waters, such as in-river fisheries, and to take over the State’s salmon escapement goal setting process.
The Cook Inlet Salmon Committee’s recommendations were provided to the Council as a redline version of Alternative 2, in order to compare the recommendations to the existing alternative. The revised alternative was referred to as Alternative 2 – Expanded Scope, and the Committee recommended that this revised alternative replace the existing Alternative 2 in the analysis. After review, the Council chose not to move the Committee’s recommended alternative forward for analysis, but requested staff include it in the section on alternatives considered but not analyzed further. Having satisfied its purpose, the Cook Inlet Salmon Committee will meet no longer. Staff Contact is Jim Armstrong.
Salmon FMP Purpose and Need and Alternatives
Purpose and Need
The Council intends to amend the Salmon FMP to manage the traditional net fishing area that occurs in Federal waters of Cook Inlet. Federal management in an FMP must meet the Magnuson-Stevens Act required provisions for an FMP in section 303(a) and related Magnuson-Stevens Act provisions. This proposed action is necessary to bring the Salmon FMP into compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act consistent with the recent Ninth Circuit ruling and the Judgement of the District Court in UCIDA et al., v. NMFS.
Alternative 1: No Action. No amendment to the Salmon FMP. This alternative would maintain status quo. Alternative 1 is not a viable alternative given the Ninth Circuit decision, however, NEPA requires that Federal agencies analyze a no action alternative.
Alternative 2: Federal management with specific management measures delegated to the State. Amend the Salmon FMP to include the Cook Inlet EEZ in the FMP’s fishery management unit in the West Area and establish a Federal management regime for these salmon fisheries that delegates specific management measures to the State of Alaska, to use existing State salmon management infrastructure, in compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and Ninth Circuit ruling. Alternative 2 would identify the management measures that would be managed by the Council and NMFS, the management measures that would be delegated to the State to manage with Federal oversight, and the process for delegation and oversight of management.
Alternative 3: Federal management. Amend the Salmon FMP to include the Cook Inlet EEZ in the FMP’s fishery management unit in the West Area and apply Federal management to those portions of the fisheries that occur in the EEZ.