- Associated Press - Friday, February 10, 2017

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - An Alaska Native tribe is working to implement new regulations for its fishing net in the Kenai River that address conservation concerns.

Ninilchik Traditional Council Executive Director Ivan Encelewski said the organization has been in discussions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a settlement that details new guidelines for the gillnet. He said the rules will provide for more subsistence opportunities and conservation.

The settlement comes after the south-central Alaska tribe sued federal officials when they didn’t approve the gillnet’s operational plan in 2015.

Earlier that year, the Office of Subsistence Management received hundreds of requests in response to the Federal Subsistence Board’s initial decision to approve the gillnet. The requests came from the Alaska Legislature, Fish and Wildlife, residents of communities near Ninilchik and others who opposed the tribe’s fishery and asked the board to reconsider its decision.

Some of their concerns included the net’s potential inference with spawning grounds for king salmon and interception of resident species. Residents of Cooper Landing and Hope also worried the tribe’s gillnet would collect too many fish, leaving few to travel upstream to supply their communities.

Gene Peltola, the assistant regional manager for the Office of Subsistence Management in Alaska, said the office is still reviewing some of the requests.

“We are going through and addressing those particular areas of concern to be visited in further detail,” Peltola said.

The U.S. Department of the Interior allowed the tribe to use the gillnet last year through a special action request, and the fishery caught hundreds of fish for Ninilchik residents who submitted a subsistence permit.

Encelewski said the settlement sets limits on how many fish can be caught and eliminates the tribe’s fishing in June, adding additional protection for early-run Kenai king salmon.

“To provide the conservation measures for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, by providing those caps, it really reduces any potential conservation concern,” Encelewski said.

The new regulations are expected to go into effect by the end of the year.


Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, https://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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