ADF&G has plans in place to manage this year's fisheries - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, November 28, 2020
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ADF&G has plans in place to manage this year’s fisheries

By DOUG VINCENT-LANG

Alaska’s fisheries are world-renowned. They feed Alaskans through subsistence, sport, and personal use fishing. Our commercial fisheries feed the world and our charter and guide industries provide much needed fishing access to both Alaskans and our guests and all contribute greatly to our state and local economies.

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has touched us all and impacted our daily lives in many ways. From hunkering down in our homes, to school closures, to lost jobs and income, to not being able to join friends at the local watering hole, these are trying times.

Trying to find the right balance to protect public health while ensuring we do not destroy the economic foundation of our state is challenging. Our knowledge of the virus is rapidly growing and as we learn more, our strategies for addressing the pandemic are evolving. This flux is understandably causing uncertainty and uneasiness as we gradually move back to normalcy and a reopening of our economy.

In this light, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is preparing to prosecute fisheries this summer as close to normally as possible. We have plans in place to deploy the necessary research and management infrastructure to allow us to manage the state’s fisheries and we are developing implementation plans to protect the health of our employees, the health of fishery participants, and the health of the communities where fishing takes place.

For example:

  • We are requiring workers returning to Alaska to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • We are not allowing staff who are displaying COVID symptoms from traveling to field camps.
  • We are enacting rules that limit staff interaction with communities to where they are deployed.
  • We are encouraging staff to wear face coverings when interacting with the public.
  • We are developing plans to medivac staff that display critical COVID symptoms so they are not reliant on local medical facilities.

It is important to note that we already have many fisheries currently open and underway. Bering Sea crab, Kodiak roe herring, Prince William Sound Tanner crab, Gulf of Alaska rockfish and Pacific cod jig, halibut and sablefish IFQ, Bering Sea/Aleutian Island groundfish (pollock and cod), and Gulf of Alaska groundfish are all underway.

We are also poised to begin the fisheries for Southeast Alaska herring, Prince William Sound shrimp, sablefish, Kodiak Dungeness crab, and Togiak herring fisheries.

We are learning from these fisheries how best to conduct them in the COVID environment in which we live . As we learn from these experiences, we are adjusting our implementation strategies both at the management level and the fishery level.

Fishermen and the fishing infrastructure are also developing mitigation plans that are evolving as we learn from our experience and from our health experts regarding the virus. These plans are focused on protecting the health of their workers, the health of fishermen and the health of the communities in which they work. These plans are being shared with the public.

We are also working with the guided sport and charter industry to develop strategies to prosecute these fisheries. These fisheries face special challenges given the number of non-residents participating in them and the difficulty in practicing social distancing in confined spaces. We are confident that industry lead efforts to develop implementation plans will allow these fisheries to operate and protect the health of fishermen, their clients, and the communities in which they operate.

Regarding subsistence, sport and personal use fisheries, the department understands the importance of these fisheries to Alaskans and supports Alaskans having the opportunity to get out and fish to feed their families and fill their freezers. We have provided guidance on our web site regarding best practices for participating in these fisheries. We strongly encourage you to follow this guidance to protect your health and the health of our communities.

In closing, it is our goal to have viable fisheries this summer while taking the necessary steps to protect the health of Fish and Game employees, fishery participants and the communities they operate in. Protecting the public remains a primary concern of state government, and we will do this while balancing the needs of our economy.

I encourage all to be responsible as you venture out this season. Follow the dictates of your approved plans, abide by department guidance, and be ready to adapt to an evolving situation. But most importantly, enjoy the publicly owned resources that we are so blessed to be managing on your behalf.

Doug Vincent-Lang is the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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Latest comments

  • So basically, they are on the honor system. GOD help us all.

  • Have to agree with Greg above, pretty much the honor system here. With the limited medical infrastructure in place there, seems socially responsible to not grant out of state fishing licenses, keep all the contractors or temporary help that comes from over seas out. You either do what you can locally with Alaskans this year or close the salmon fisheries period. We’ve closed the rest of AK due to all the rest of the complaining, why would fishing be any different.

    • Teams of lobbyists in Juneau and DC, paid for by S-48 fishermen associations.

  • Wow, after shutting down Spring Bear hunts to non-resident hunters I thought the Department had set some sort of precident. I have always supported our Fish and Game Biologists and think they have made sound decisions over the years. I certainly hope this decision is based upon science and not politics.

    • It’s based on the almighty dollar. Mike caved.

    • I agree with that decisions should be based upon science, but if that were the case the entire country wouldn’t be shut down right now. Research done by both Stanford and Oxford University’s suggest that the rate of infection is far higher than previously thought. Of course the virus is terrible in some cases, but the true numbers of asymptomatic cases (if ever truly known) will drive the morbidity rate down to next to nothing. As stated above, but in a different context, God help us all if we don’t find leaders with the backbone to lead, even if the decisions made are not politically correct in the snowflake world in which we are living.

  • This piece from the Commissioner is about as vague and ambiguous as can be. There are no specifics. None! Comparing some of the crab, halibut, long line , and herring fisheries to the Bristol Bay fisheries is very misleading. There will be, literally, tens of thousands of people participating in the BB fisheries, a large majority of which will come from outside of Alaska. Where will they be quarantined? Most will have to come through Anchorage. Will they be put up in local hotels? Is there proper testing equipment available? Not now! Some will come right to the King Salmon area. Where will they be quarantined? In cannery bunk houses? Ha! Talk about inability to maintain social distancing. There is but one very small hospital in the Bay. Nothing more than a nurse or two. In the rest of the villages. Processors and canneries are placed throughout the fishing communities. Locals from these small communities will be working with outsiders. And trust me social distancing in a 32 ft fishing boat is impossible. As it will be for locals who work on shore or on floating processors.
    Sure, cancelling the commercial fisheries will cost millions in lost income for many. But the fish will be there next year! Conduct the fishery this year and there may not be as many villagers next year however. How many lives is the Commissioner or the Governor willing to sacrifice in order to prosecute this fishery? I hope they know what they are doing. Because it will not read well if they are wrong.

    • All non-Alaska resident permits should be cancelled for the season.

    • Some will arrive from outside the country with a green card. They need to bring them in early, lock them up for 14+ days, then contain them in the compound. This isn’t a vacation trip. Hit the slime line, go to sleep, hit it again, then go home.

  • What a bunch of cry babies! If anyone feels unsafe, don’t participate in the fishery. People, including fisherman, have to get back to work. The fish have to be caught and processed during a certain time period or the opportunity is lost. Food has to be produced to get to a market so people can consume it. With so muck of our country shut down we will likely enter a time of food shortages. Let the Alaska fisheries proceed.

    • Cry babies? We are talking about the health and well being of our villages.

    • Indeed, let the fisheries proceed, without the S-48 carpetbaggers or green-card workers. Alaska has more than enough unemployed who will happily work in a processor or cannery.

      • My neighbor went to work for Icicle Seafoods in Seward.

  • This is an interesting experiment. Interesting that F&G is trying it out in the bush.

    • If a bunch of us Natives die from C-19, there will be a huge outcry, with a lot of hand wringing, and monetary compensation …… and the next big issue will be introduced faster than we can bury our people.

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