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Board of fish rejects local shellfish closures


The state Board of Fisheries rejected proposals aimed at curtailing commercial shellfish harvest at subsistence areas near Skagway and Excursion Inlet, during meetings earlier this year.

At the request of residents there, the Haines Borough made proposal #163, which would have closed Dungeness crab fishing in a near-shore section of Excursion Inlet, creating a personal use and subsistence zone.

The proposal was opposed by Fish and Game Advisory Committees including ones representing Haines and Skagway, Sitka, Wrangell, and Petersburg, and by two commercial fishing groups, Southeast Alaska Fisherman’s Alliance and Petersburg Vessel Owner’s Association.

The Department of Fish and Game was neutral on the proposal, but said there were no conservation concerns on stocks there.

Thirty-six Excursion Inlet residents and property owners signed a petition seeking the closure, saying that they’ve seen degraded subsistence and personal use harvests there since 2002. Residents said commercial boats are increasingly dominating the fishery, and say crabbers moved or emptied their pots and cut buoy lines and that enforcement there is minimal.

“This is becoming more serious, with confrontations and friction,” the borough wrote in making the proposal.

The Upper Lynn Canal Advisory Committee, representing Haines and Skagway, voted 5-1 to oppose the proposal. “It was felt the closure area in Excursion Inlet was too small and would lead to many similar requests for small closures and create a problem,” the committee wrote to the fish board.

The board’s vote on the proposal was 5-1 to oppose, plus one abstention.

The Skagway proposal would have closed Taiya Inlet to commercial crabbing north of a line from Sturgill’s Landing to Burro Creek between Sept. 1 and March 1.

Taiya Inlet Watershed Council made the proposal, hoping to create a reproductive refuge that return stocks to historic abundance. The closure would produce a better harvest for all users, and the closure’s timing was based on peak reproductive times, the council said.

Subsistence shrimp harvests drop to nearly zero after commercial crabbing there, with numbers recovering only slowly, the group said.

The Upper Lynn Canal Advisory Committee split on the issue, with three Haines members opposing the proposal and two abstaining. Two dissenting board members from Skagway said they might resubmit the proposal.

Fish and Game staff was neutral on the decision but said there were no conservation concerns on stocks there. Groups opposed to the closure included advisory committees from Wrangell and Petersburg and commercial fish groups PVOA and SEAFA.

Minutes of fish board deliberation on the proposals were not available this week.