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Struggling Susitna fisheries need conservation measures

MAT-SU—The fisheries of the Susitna and Yentna Rivers in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough are struggling. Assembly Member Jim Colver is the Vice Chair of the Mayor's Sportsmen's Committee. "Unless the Board of Fish mandates that conservation measures be taken, we may lose our fisheries. It's that close to being a crisis," Colver said.

This Sunday, lengthy hearings before the Alaska Board of Fisheries begin in Anchorage as the body considers proposed changes to Upper Cook Inlet fisheries, including subsistence, sports, personal use and commercial fishing. The outcome of the meetings will determine fisheries management in Upper Cook Inlet for the next three years.

Click here to view a 3 minute video. Struggling Fisheries of the Upper Cook Inlet

The Mayor's Blue Ribbon Sportsmen's Committee produced a booklet showing the science and economics behind the struggling Susitna River dainage fisheries. Among the findings:

• The King salmon fishery used to be the most robust on the Deshka and Susitna Rivers. Those runs had closures to fishing in 2009 and 2010 due to few fish.

• In 2007, 40 percent of the sockeye bound north for the Susitna River drainage were stopped farther south in the commercial catch.

• In each of past seven years, setnetters in the Upper Cook Inlet have had one or more closed openings while commercial drift net openings farther south in the Central District have regularly increased and enjoyed record harvests.

• Personal use fisheries have occurred only twice in the last ten years in Northern District waters (Fish Creek) due to poor sockeye returns.

• In 2008, the Board of Fisheries declared Susitna/Yentna Rivers sockeye as a stock of yield concern: a chronic inability to maintain minimum spawning escapements. Even with an action plan to revive the run strength, developed by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game and approved by the Board of Fisheries, the Susitna and Yentna Rivers sockeye have failed to make minimim escapement goals two out of the three years the action plan has been in place.

Anglers and Personal Use fishermen add tremendous dollars to the economy of Cook Inlet, some $733 million in 2007.

The Borough's Sportsmen's Committee consists of seven representatives: one representative from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; two sports fishing representatives; two hunting representatives, and two at-large positions.

Video by Public Affairs Director Patty Sullivan and Media Design Specialist Stefan Hinman.

 

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