The Council conducted its initial review of an analysis of alternative approaches to extend the authority of the Salmon FMP to include management of commercial salmon fishing in the Cook Inlet EEZ. The Council’s SSC reviewed the technical merits of the analysis and approved it for use by the Council for selecting a preferred alternative. In addition to the existing alternative set, the Council added a fourth alternative that would include the Cook Inlet EEZ in the FMP’s West Area and extend the existing West Area prohibition on commercial salmon fishing to the Cook Inlet EEZ. The possibility of an extended closure of the Cook Inlet EEZ to commercial salmon fishing was also analyzed under Alternative 3, with the difference that the option to close federal waters under Alternative 3 would be contingent on the availability of information needed for management. By adding Alternative 4, the Council clarified that prohibiting commercial salmon fishing in Cook Inlet could also occur as a policy decision, and, as such, would only be changed through a future amendment to the FMP.
Under this action, the Council is also considering a delegated management approach described in the analysis under Alternative 2, which would establish federal authority in the Cook Inlet EEZ, but would allow some management measures to by established by the State of Alaska. Such an approach would be consistent with the Council’s BSAI Crab FMP, which identifies distinct federal and State of Alaska management measures. Management under Alternative 3, on the other hand, would occur entirely at the federal level. This would be similar to how fisheries are managed under the Council’s GOA and BSAI Groundfish FMPs. Under either Alternative 2 or 3, the Council would need to establish a regular specifications cycle for Cook Inlet salmon stocks, including creation of a Salmon Plan Team and ongoing reviews of fishery performance and stock status. Under Alternative 4, commercial salmon fishing in Cook Inlet would only occur in state jurisdictional waters, involving established state management processes, and no changes to Federal management would be necessary.
The motion passed by the Council at its October 2020 meeting is provided in its entirety here. The Council expects to take final action on the Salmon FMP by December 2020, which will allow NMFS to complete Secretarial review of the FMP amendment and implementing regulations by December 2021 in order to have them effective for the 2022 fishing season. The Alaska Board of Fisheries and Council’s Joint Protocol Committee will meet by webconference on November 5, 2020 to review and discuss potential impacts and management changes associated with the alternative approaches for federal management of commercial salmon fishing in the Cook Inlet EEZ.
Staff Contact is Jim Armstrong.