Scientists and fishermen of all stripes were in Anchorage Monday for the first of two full days of panel discussions about declining king salmon returns around the state.
Much of the talk during the first portion of the two-day Alaska Chinook Salmon Symposium focused on what the problem is and, essentially, what scientists still need to find out in order to solve it.
Tom Vania, Cook Inlet regional management biologist for the sport fishing division of the Department of Fish and Game said the challenges faced by Cook Inlet fisheries can be divided into two categories: primary (things like forecasting and run timing information) and secondary: (how emergency orders and complex regulations fit into the picture.)
He said the various tools at the disposal of fisheries managers play the critical role adjusting management priorities in-season, and more specifically, the placement of those tools to accurately count fish.
“I believe these primary challenges are challenges managers face in determining what actions we’re going to take in order to achieve escapement numbers while still providing an opportunity for recreational users,” Vania said.
While much of the discussion and public comment focused on low-abundance issues in western Alaska on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, attention was given to what’s happening in Cook Inlet. University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student Hannah Harrison asked the panel about the relationship between fishermen and ADF&G biologists and managers.
“What is your ability to respond to what they come and say to you,” Harrison asked.
Mr. Vania responded by asking the questions that biologists and managers must ask about the information they’ve received from the fishermen.
“Is it corroborating the scientific information that we are utilizing? Is it in conflict with the information we receive? It doesn’t always line up,” Vania said.
The symposium continues Tuesday, with panel sessions taking a deeper dive into what’s happening while Alaska’s dwindling number of Chinook salmon are in the oceans.