The Council was presented with a discussion paper that provided a preliminary review of the steps needed to impose federal jurisdiction over portions of three traditional salmon net fishing areas currently managed by the State of Alaska. These net areas include federal waters in Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, and the South Alaska Peninsula.
The Council’s existing Salmon FMP divides federal waters off Alaska into two management areas, East and West, with a boundary line at Cape Suckling. The FMP delegates management of salmon sport fishing and commercial trolling in the East Area to the State and prohibits all commercial salmon harvest in the West Area. Commercial salmon fishing in federal water portions of the traditional net areas would be prohibited since they partially overlap with federal waters of the West Area but these areas are specifically excluded from the federal FMP. This arrangement was facilitated by the Council through Amendment 12 to the Salmon FMP in 2012 recognizing the State’s superior ability to respond to in-season data by quickly and continually adjusting run-specific harvest measures.
In 2013, Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishermen and seafood processors desiring federal management of their fisheries filed a lawsuit challenging Amendment 12 and its implementing regulations. Although the Federal District Court did not support their claim, they appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court which overturned the initial finding in 2016. Adding these three net areas (not just Cook Inlet) to the Federal FMP is, therefore, a necessary response to the Ninth Circuit Court’s determination that their exclusion is contrary to the MSA.
The Council acted on this issue by directing staff to provide further analysis and to work with ADF&G to develop alternatives to amend the Salmon FMP. The Council provided a preliminary range of alternatives that included 1) no action, 2) cooperative Federal and State management with as much delegation to the State as possible under the MSA, and 3) full federal management of federal water portions of the three net areas.
Under any Council action on this issue, management of salmon fishing in state waters will remain under full jurisdiction of the State of Alaska. After their review of the requested further analysis, the Council intends to form a stakeholder workgroup to ensure public access and input during development of the amendment.
Staff contact is Jim Armstrong.