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The Canadian way

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It's only a matter of time until Alaska further limits the number of fish non-residents can take home. A proposal the Alaska Board of Fisheries will consider early in 2012 would do just that.

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Proposal 249, submitted by the Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council, would establish annual limits for nonresidents for coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon. The council left the number of fish for the board to decide. Residents would continue to have no annual limits for these salmon species.

While this proposal applies only to Southeast waters, it might well apply to other heavily fished areas of the state, such as the Kenai Peninsula.

It wouldn't surprise me if the fish board adopted this proposal. In the Southeast Region, non-residents already have annual limits for king salmon, steelhead, shark (except spiny dogfish), lingcod, yelloweye rockfish and sablefish (black cod). What's another four species?

According to the advisory council, "... abuses to sport fishing bag and possession limits by some nonresident anglers are well known. These behavior patterns by a few nonresidents are contributing to conservation issues that are difficult to address on a case by case basis."

It concerns council members that subsistence and personal-use fishermen are required to list on a permit all the coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon they harvest, but that sport-fishing non-residents aren't. A large number of sport-harvested fish go uncounted, they claim. Non-residents should enter all salmon on a harvest card, they propose.

They have a point. Under current regulations, and when fishing is good, it's possible for non-residents on an extended trip to Alaska to catch as many salmon as resident subsistence or personal-use fishermen.

As to the claim that sport-harvested fish go uncounted, the Department of Fish and Game conducts annual postal surveys of anglers, as well as creel censuses in some fisheries. Still, it doesn't seem right that non-residents can harvest large numbers of any fish without having to record them.

How many salmon can a non-resident legally harvest?

In most Southeast waters, the daily limit for coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon (16 inches or longer) is six of each species daily, and the possession limit is 12 of each species. However, once the fish are canned or frozen, they no longer count as part of a possession limit. The angler can go right on fishing, catching the daily bag limit, day after day.

At the peak of the run, when the daily bag limit is six, an angler staying for a week at a lodge or campground on the Kenai River can easily fill two 50-pound boxes with fillets.

Instead of annual limits, the Board of Fisheries may want to consider what British Columbia did to staunch the flood of fish to the Lower 48. After all, Alaska and B.C. share the same "Outside," as well as a good many of the same fish.

The dramatic difference between what non-residents can do in Alaska and B.C.is mainly attributable to different definitions of "possession limit."

Alaska's definitions:

possession limit--the maximum number of unpreserved fish a person may have in possession.

preserved fish--fish prepared in such a manner and in an existing state of preservation, as to be fit for human consumption after a 15-day period, and does not include unfrozen fish temporarily stored in coolers that contain ice, dry ice, or fish that are lightly salted.

B.C.'s definitions:

possession limit--the number of fish of any species that an angler may have in his/her possession at any given time, except at place of ordinary residence.

ordinary residence-- a residential dwelling where a person normally lives, with all associated connotations including a permanent mailing address, telephone number, furnishings and storage of automobile; the address on one's driver's licence and automobile registration, where one is registered to vote.

A motor home or vessel at a campsite or marina is not considered to be an ordinary residence.

Note that B.C.'s definition uses the all-inclusive "fish," which means all fish, whether fresh or preserved. Also, it's illegal in B.C. to "field-can" any fish outside of a person's ordinary residence.

Comparing the two definitions of "possession limit," B.C.'s version definitely benefits residents. Compare the maximum number of frozen salmon a non-resident angler can take home: from B.C., eight; from Alaska, as many you can afford to vacuum-pack, freeze and ship home.

Limiting non-residents may not happen next year, since most Alaskans seem to be happy with the season just past. But why wait until salmon become scarce? Now might be a good time to limit non-residents the Canadian way.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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