Kenai Peninsula Well Represented on Salmon Task Force

Shaylon Cochran

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     Membership for the task force charged with finding new ways to manage salmon fisheries in Upper Cook Inlet has been released.  The 11-member group includes several representatives from the Kenai Peninsula.

     The first meeting of the task force will be in Kenai November 16th, and most of the members won’t need to travel far.  The co-chairs are Tom Kluberton of Talkeetna and Vince Webster from King Salmon, but seven of the remaining nine are from the Kenai Peninsula, including local commercial setnetter Jim Butler who got the call Wednesday morning from the Board of Fish.

     “I’m very flattered and it’s a privilege,” Butler said.

     Joining him as representatives of the setnet community are Ken Coleman and Robert Williams.  Dwight Kramer and Kevin Delaney are the two sport fishers, Dennis Gease will represent Personal Use fishers, Andy Szczesny is the lone sport guide, Ian Pitzman of Homer fills the seat for Drifters and Luther Anderson of Palmer will represent the marine recreation interests.

     The task force will meet four times between November and February with the goal of taking recommendations to the Board of Fish for possible changes in the management plans that shut down king salmon fishing and commercial setnetting almost entirely in 2012.  

     Butler, who has participated in many of the different Cook Inlet fisheries going back to the 1970’s, says his main concern is educating himself and the fishing communities who will be affected by any management changes.

     “What I’m hoping to do is use it as an opportunity to get a better understanding and a common view of what did happen this summer,” Butler said.  ”We know the impact of what happened, but…the Department (of Fish and Game) hopefully has data and information so that first we can become educated about the situation that we’re looking at from a…biological data point of view."

     The task force will likely have as a resource some of the findings from the Salmon Symposium held in Anchorage in October.  The public comment period for a gap analysis that will direct researchers in the future is open until November 9th through the Fish and Game website.  Butler says those findings will be an important part in putting together a comprehensive plan.

     All four of the group’s meetings will take place in Kenai, which Butler said is appropriate.

     “I’m proud to be associated with the folks on the task force because I think they’re all going to be hard working and roll up their sleeves and try and get in there and see if we can make the system a little better.  I don’t think anybody’s going in there with too big an axe to grind,” he said.

     The first meeting of the UCI Salmon Task Force is scheduled for November 16th, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Building on K-Beach Road.  The other meetings are scheduled for December 14th, January 14th and February 14th and will all be held at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai.

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