Matanuska-Susitna Borough

MSB Fish Commission: Defenders of Fish

Mat-Su | Stefan Hinman | Friday, April 05, 2024

On Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission received a Mayoral Proclamation for their dedicated and steadfast efforts through preservation and conservation of our fisheries resource here in the Mat-Su. The expertise of these individuals all working in unison has been a significant factor in the past and current achievements.

In the past, the chance to hook a wild King, silver, or sockeye salmon in the Mat-Su was a major draw to the area for tourists. But low returns, especially with Kings, has changed that. Part of the problem has been the interception of northern bound salmon by commercial fishing nets. In 2011, a solution was needed and the Fish and Wildlife Commission, led by former ADFG biologist Larry Engel, came up with what is now known as, the Conservation Corridor; a passage way that has successfully given multiple species of salmon a chance to make it back to their spawning grounds in the Mat-Su, as well as Anchorage area streams and Tyonek. Prior to the development of the Conservation Corridor, during a large run, drift fisherman in the Central District of Cook Inlet could fish wherever they wanted in the area of their choice. At certain times, when the Conservation Corridor would be active, the commercial fishing boats would move aside into harvest zones/corridors to minimize interception of fish coming straight up the middle. This concept has given more people a piece of the pie. The Corridor has proven successful for 13 years.

Over the past six months, the Mat-Su Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission has worked tirelessly in their preparations for this year's Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries meeting that occurred last February. But this meeting brought with it something different than any year prior: Uncertainty. The Federal Government was now going to take over Management of federal Waters in Cook Inlet, the EEZ. But their management plan was not finalized so any decisions made at this years Board of Fisheries left a blanket of murkiness to the entire board process. With this in mind, the Board of Fisheries decisions reflected a conservation approach. The Conservation Corridor was safe for now, with no proposals against it being adopted; however, management decisions being made later by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council are still to come, which has the potential of rendering the Conservation Corridor ineffective. That decision will come sometime in May. This video touches on these issues in a visual way that only nature can provide. It was produced in-house by Public Affairs with all fish video shot by the talented Calvin Hall, a local Mat-Su resident.