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Photo by M. Scott Moon
Travis Every stands on a picnic table to address fellow commercial setnet fishers gathered to protest the closure of their fishery this season during a rally on the Kenai park strip Friday afternoon.

Setnetters rally in increasingly large numbers as season closure continues

Posted: July 20, 2012 - 2:00pm  |  Updated: July 23, 2012 - 9:16am
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Commercial setnet fishers gathered to protest the closure of their fishery this season during a rally on the Kenai park strip Friday afternoon.   Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Commercial setnet fishers gathered to protest the closure of their fishery this season during a rally on the Kenai park strip Friday afternoon.

Commercial setnet fishermen rallied and then took to the streets in Kenai to protest fishing closures aimed at protecting king salmon.

The format of the rally was simple; Any of the nearly 200 people who stood in the park strip on Friday could take the microphone and talk about economic issues, closures, fishery management and the elusiveness of harvesting an overabundance of one fish while protecting the dwindling numbers of another. 

A steady stream of people took their turn, with many touching on often repeated phrases about the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s management of the Cook Inlet. Many questioned politics and biological management of king salmon, and called for more attention to the Cook Inlet as commercial setnet fishermen and in-river sport fishermen face unprecedented closures. 

Attendees at the rally were overwhelming setnet fishermen who have been closed for a significant portion of their normal fishing season, Several people spoke about the economic impact of closures in the area. 

Gov. Sean Parnell held a press conference earlier Friday to address the king salmon issue.

Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said he and Kenai Mayor Pat Porter travelled to Anchorage to discuss the issues with fish and game commissioner Cora Campbell and Parnell following the conference, where Campbell announced that a team of researchers was being formed to look into why king salmon have returned in low numbers all over the state. 

“We had the opportunity to meet ... and stress what the impact means to the Kenai Peninsula but more importantly what the impact to families who participate and for years have participated in the setnet fishery,” Navarre said. “We know it's important, the governor recognizes that there is a huge economic impact; they’ve pledged to use all of the management tools that they have as they get new information.”

Navarre said he understood that people were angered by being pulled out of the water.

“I know its very frustrating not getting answers to what-ifs that are posed by fishermen wanting to know some definitive answer about whether or not they’re going to be allowed back in the water,” he said. 

Navarre predicted the board of fisheries would meet off-cycle again and would discuss the Cook Inlet and said he would request that the board meet on the central peninsula so fishermen here wouldn’t have to face the additional burden of travelling outside of the area to discuss the impacts of this year's closures. 

As the crowd grew larger the weather dropped by several degrees and drops of rain began to drop intermittently, however the line of speakers remained steady and the crowd pressed closer together clapping and shouting and encouraging one another to speak. 

Todd Smith, whose family setnets by False Creek in Clam Gulch, spoke to the crowd and urged them to remember that closures to the setnet fishery were a regular part of the process of management in the Cook Inlet and to keep the fish in mind. 

After he handed the microphone to the next person, Smith said he trusted the department of fish and game to manage the fishery competently when allowed to do so biologically.

"Commercial fishing — setnetting — has been in the inlet for over 100 years," he said. "Obviously we've made mistakes and we're fortunate ... the state in the past (has) done a very good job we've had good biologists and they've maintained all the data. That's what they use."

However, Smith said he thought increasing political pressure had influenced fish and game's commercial division to close the setnet fishery. 

"They make a management report every year. It's 200 pages long. Nobody reads it but it's there, it has all the data in it and that's what they run off of," he said. 

"The data supports (setnetters). They fish us when they can, when the fish aren't there we don't fish. That's why I supported us not fishing earlier this year with the understanding that when the fish are here an acceptable number of kings are going to be harvested. Now the political pressures aren't letting us do that."

Travis Every, whose family setnets and was instrumental in organizing the rally, said he called in to hear the press conference and wasn’t pleased by what he heard. 

"They can do all the studies they want after the season, but after the season is too late," he said. "We need help now."

 

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kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 07/21/12 - 08:45 am
0
0
Economic Distress

“No exclusive right or special privilege of fishery shall be created or
authorized in the natural waters of the State. This section does not restrict
the power of the State to limit entry into any fishery for purposes of
resource conservation, to prevent economic distress among fishermen and
those dependent upon them for a livelihood and to promote the efficient
development of aquaculture in the State.”

-Amendment 5, section 15, article VIII to the Alaska Constitution-

drjofak
38
Points
drjofak 07/21/12 - 09:35 am
0
0
Constitution provision of little help solving problem

Those familiar with the Alaska State Constitution know the tortured history of the section cited by Kenai-kid. For example, dispute the first eleven words of this section, the Supreme Court upheld limited entry. Why, conservation. On the question before us today, the king crisis, the provision gives support to both resource conservation and the right of fishers of all gear types to fish. Under historic constitutional law interpretation rules, the first consideration enumerated is primary, absent framers intentions to the contrary. The Framers intentions have been found by the courts to favor conservation on countless occasions.

pjcrookston
4
Points
pjcrookston 07/21/12 - 11:22 am
0
0
setnetter clarification and point of view

I am a set-netter and would like to state our position in a better way than this article does.

Our Situation

King fishing on the Kenai River has been closed due to low numbers. This means, by management plan, that the East Side Set Net Fishery must be completely closed regardless of the strength of the Sockeye run. (This is another story of corrupt and biased management how this came to be)

Set-Net King harvest, despite the skewed numbers with respect to Jacks (small Kings under 8 lbs), are traditionally less than 1% of the set net harvest and even less than that on a season like this one.

Alaska department of Fish and Game forcasts a sockeye return of 6.2 million! With the Setnet fishery closure, biologists fully expect to overescape the river for a second year in a row. This will have very negative effects on future Sockeye returns.

Fish and Game, along with the board of fish, has effectively made the decision that King Salmon are more inportant than Sockeye.

The only user group that is not being allowed to harvest the sockeye is the setnetters! This means the burden of conservation is bieng felt greatest by a group that does not even target King Salmon. The economic impact of this unjust and political closure will have a negative impact on this community.

pjcrookston
4
Points
pjcrookston 07/21/12 - 10:27 am
0
0
setnetter clarification and point of view

I am a set-netter and would like to state our position in a better way than this article does.

Our Situation

King fishing on the Kenai River has been closed due to low numbers. This means, by management plan, that the East Side Set Net Fishery must be completely closed regardless of the strength of the Sockeye run. (This is another story of corrupt and biased management how this came to be)

Set-Net King harvest, despite the skewed numbers with respect to Jacks (small Kings under 8 lbs), are traditionally less than 1% of the set net harvest and even less than that on a season like this one.

Alaska department of Fish and Game forcasts a sockeye return of 6.2 million! With the Setnet fishery closure, biologists fully expect to overescape the river for a second year in a row. This will have very negative effects on future Sockeye returns.

Fish and Game, along with the board of fish, has effectively mad the decision that King Salmon are more inportant than Sockeye.

The economic impact of this unjust and political closure will have a negative impact on this community.

thewhop2000
30
Points
thewhop2000 07/21/12 - 08:27 pm
1
0
setnetters

These people need to fish so compress the drifters and allow Mr. Johnson and his fellow setters some time in the water too. I'm the chair of SCADA, Southcentral alaska dippers but also see the need for the setnetters to fish too. We are all in this together, like it or not

hoost
52
Points
hoost 07/22/12 - 12:15 pm
2
0
Let's augment the King's

Columbia River Kings were introduced to the Kenai almost 100 years ago semi secretly. Their numbers can be increased through hatchery programs again. We cannot sacrifice the local economy, setnetters livelihood and the heatlth of the native sockeye runs any longer. We need immediate action to open the eastside fishery and work together towards programs to help the kings in the coming years,

kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 07/22/12 - 03:04 pm
0
0
Columbia River Kings in the Kenai?

hoost, I'm not suggesting you are incorrect, I am just not able to find anything that supports your statement that Columbia River Kings were introduced to the Kenai River. As far as I know, the Kenai King is indigenous to this river. If you have a source that supports your comment, I would be interested in checking it out.
As for augmenting the Kenai River Kings...#1) The more we dabble with Mother Nature, the more we screw things up and #2) the trawlers seem to be the biggest culprit here. If you make more kings, that will simply mean more kings to be harvested and put to waste by the trawl fleet.

hoost
52
Points
hoost 07/22/12 - 06:40 pm
0
0
Columbia...er...Kenai Kings

kenai_kid,

I'm working on getting you the documentation for my claim. I was at the setnetters rally on Friday and a speaker had a photocopy of a biography written by a biologist from I believe the 10's or 20's who attested that they were planting Columbia Kings into the Kenai. There are also many blogs and forums online discussing this exact issue. Also, there are numerous guides down on the Columbia who are attesting to this fact. I know the claims of a couple of guides are not alone fact, but I'm not just pulling this claim out of thin air. And the biography of a biologist who was actually there is pretty solid. I've emailed a contact to try and get the name of the biologist and the book for you all.

http://reeltimefish.com/fish-we-catch/salmon-steelhead

http://www.sturgeon-salmon.com/salmon.html

julie
135
Points
julie 07/22/12 - 06:57 pm
0
0
End Salmon Bycatch

If you care about how many salmon the Pollock Trawlers are killing then sign this petition! And PLEASE forward to your facebook and email http://signon.org/sign/end-salmon-halibut-bycatch
& for info: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Trawling-Bycatch-of-Salmon-Halibut-Petition/407719715940319

kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 07/22/12 - 08:10 pm
0
0
hoost

Although likelihood of transplanted Columbia River Kings is not unfathomable it is at the same time very slight. The mortality rate today of hatchery Kings is below 10%. To think that a biologist could transport either eggs and milt or live salmon in numbers enough to start a run or to enhance a run one hundred years ago is unlikely. Also, to have a sustained run would take transporting the feed stock for a full cycle (5-8 years for kings).
If the idea was to create a larger King or to simply enhance the run strength, why not use a Copper River King strain or a Yukon or Susitna strain or another river in Alaska or even Canada? Transporting from those locations would be much easier and your chances of success in those days would increase considerably.
Again, I am not saying your story isn't true, it just hasn't been substantiated and seems to have some logistic holes in it. However, I'm not a biologist, so who knows? I'll be waiting for the your sources and information and I appreciate you assisting me in my search.

akal
252
Points
akal 07/23/12 - 08:40 am
0
0
why

why are the dipnetters and guides allowed to fish and others (setnetters) not allowed ? this seems so unfair it must be a political event. and it flys in the face of the Alaskan constitution.

hoost
52
Points
hoost 07/23/12 - 09:34 pm
0
0
It is political

It is a political move. We setnetters are being scapegoated for the damage the trawlers are doing to the runs on the open ocean. Also, the ADF&G biologists don't truly know how many kings are making it past their counter. So we are shut down because they claim we catch too many kings (even though they are 1% or less of our catch) and they claim the run returns are low, though they don't even know exactly how low.

julie
135
Points
julie 07/24/12 - 07:52 am
1
0
End Salmon Bycatch Petition

I agree with you that set netters shouldn't be shut down. The facts behind trawling bycatch are too many to dispute this is probably 1 of the top 2 problems for the king run. But I wonder can you tell me what your 1% of catch in a set net means? For trawling this means 1% of their weight (as they report it) 1,000,000 pounds of fish! As in the halibut bycatch numbers they are equal to the commercial halibut yearly catch in weight. Occasionally a king gets caught in a dip-net. Occasionally is quite different from 1% of a huge weight. I know many setnetters net about 5 which I've seen a lot. I do think you're being targeted unfairly. The only way to solve these problems is to become active. Sign our petition, call the governor, call the Pacific Northwest Fishery. We all need to understand that this problem has its roots in big corporation once again that isn't even Alaskan. The trawlers of ANY kind are raping ALL other species that get in their way. They are destroying everything. Corals that have been ravaged from their nets are broken off up to 90% in some places & 40 years later are NOT growing back. There are DEAD SPOTS in the ocean now where nothing grows and fish can't live anymore. Our world is fed from the ocean. We get over 75% of our food from the ocean. If they keep up present practices at trawling studies predict our oceans will be EMPTY of fish in less than 50 years. Wow, I'm just about to become a grandmother and face seeing my grandchildren going hungry. http://signon.org/sign/end-salmon-halibut-bycatch

hoost
52
Points
hoost 07/24/12 - 05:01 pm
0
0
Kenai Kings really Columbia/Washington Kings?

Kenai_kid,

Here is some solid information I found on the NMFS/NOAA website regarding historical hatchery programs and transplanting of Washington/Columbia River fish to Alaska. NOAA says between 1923 and 1926, 1,387,000 "Washington" chinook from "the Columbia River and unspecified locations in Washington State" were released into lakes and rivers "near" Seward. Considering the fact that neither Kenai or Soldotna were towns or even really homesteaded until the 1940s and 1950s, and that Seward was not only the biggest town on the peninsula at that time, but had a busy port and railroad, it makes sense that any plantings in the Kenai River, Skilak lake or Kenai lake would be listed as "near Seward". I'm just saying it needs to be further investigated. We cannot allow the devastation of the setnet fishery and ultimate management of the river system based on a run that isn't even native, if that turns out to be the case.

http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/publications/techmemos/tm35/chapters/08artprop.htm

kenai_kid
222
Points
kenai_kid 07/24/12 - 07:32 pm
0
0
Columbia River Kings?

Hoost,
first allow me to thank you for your research. I truly appreciate the information.
Although this is solid information, it is not conclusive! After the portion of the article that addressed enhancement near Seward (and other areas of the state), there was this little nugget:
"Not long afterward, Alaska abandoned the concept of using hatcheries to augment natural production, as hatchery releases had not resulted in increases in fish abundance. This may have been related to the poor hatchery practices of that era and general large-scale increases in harvest (Roppel 1982)." One can come to three (or more) possible conclusions: #1) the chinook were used to enhance an already existing run and it failed to do so or #2) Or they were introduced to enhance with no notable success, but the fish co-mingled and created a hybrid, #3) or they were never introduced to the Kenai. And yes, Kenai was a town in 1926. A rather large town and it had been for nearly 75 years. It simply was not connected to the road system.
Finally, enhancement could go the same way as the early attempt is we don't find the root problem and correct it. Simply making more fish to be intercepted does not fix the problem, it simply delays the outcome.
Thanks again for the research and info. The entire link was a fascinating read.

hoost
52
Points
hoost 07/24/12 - 09:29 pm
0
0
Re: Columbia Kings

I was not advertising my information as conclusive. That's why I said it needs to be further investigated. While Kenai was a "town" in 1926, it was basically a fishing village and previously a failed fort. There was no railroad, roads to anchorage, or even an airport until 1937, fully 11 years after the hatchery plantings. The other cities listed, Ketchikan, Cordova and Seward were all well established port cities, with Cordova and Seward being connected to the railroad by the 1920s. Kenai in comparison would have hardly been a blip on the map. It would have made sense to list the plantings as occuring "outside Seward". You have to at least concede that. I have an email out to the historian cited in the report. I intend to get to the bottom of this. I will update you all with any new information. I would truly appreciate any information anyone can provide about mythically large Kings prior to the 1920s (80lbs +) as well. That would be interesting information. Because prior to the damming of the Columbia, it not only had the biggest salmon run in the world (historically 30+ million fish per year before damming, larger than all of Bristol Bay), but also the largest Chinook run. Is it so far fetched to think that the biggest Chinook return on the biggest river on the west coast might also have produced the biggest fish?

kenai123
1312
Points
kenai123 07/30/12 - 05:18 am
0
0
Set-netters not even target King Salmon?

pjcrookston you said, "The only user group that is not being allowed to harvest the sockeye is the set-netters ! This means the burden of conservation is being felt greatest by a group that does not even target King Salmon."

You are INCORRECT because set nets do TARGET king salmon when you consider the other ways to catch sockeyes. TARGETING is mass genocide, like when the commercial gill net industry throws 7,000,000 liner feet of gill nets into Cook Inlet each summer and the set net gear type "ACCIDENTALLY" slaughter one king salmon for each 260 sockeyes in a set net. This is actual TARGETING because drift nets catch ten time LESS kings for the same amount of sockeyes. When the ADF&G uses these east side set nets it is in fact TARGETING king salmon because it could be only using the drift fleet 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to NOT TARGET kings. So the TARGETING is with respect to which gear the ADF&G uses to harvest sockeyes, not what an individual set netter may catch. The ADF&G are the guys doing the TARGETING here pjcrookston, not the set netters.

Many Alaskan's are wondering what can or should be done to resolve the decline in king salmon within the Cook Inlet area. If you ask the Alaska Department of Fish & Game they will point to a snowstorm of data and grafts, which in the end leaves the viewer even more confused about our commercial by-catch problems. I have been reviewing our king loss data since 2002 and have come to a single conclusion. That conclusion is that many things may need to change within our commercial fisheries but key within those changes is that statewide we must stop all commercial fisheries from profiting "in any way" when they kill non-targeted specie as by-catch. This means that commercial fisheries should be legally required to retain and process ALL BY-CATCH and then DONATE it to a charity. That means that if you "by-catch kill" a beluga whale calf; you are forced to retain, process and donate it. If you by-catch kill a king salmon: you must retain, process and donate it. By charity I mean some kind of Food Bank. This would prevent commercial fisheries from donating by-catch to their favorite "commercial fisheries non-profit".
This change alone, over time would eventually resolve most of Alaska's current by-catch problems. With this change commercial fisheries would eventually be forced to at least begin thinking about avoiding non-targeted by-catch. The king salmon by-catch issue is 100% about money; if you can make by-catch non-profitable, commercial fisheries will eventually find a way to prevent the financial drain. If we leave things the way they are we will be permanently losing many marine specie and fisheries in the very near future.
As long as commercial fisheries are allowed to profit "in any way" from by-catch, the by-catch issue will never go away and therefore all our Alaskan natural resources
and fisheries will go on suffering FOREVER. The Alaskan public must organize on this commercial fisheries by-catch issue and tightly focus on this single goal.
That goal must be to " REMOVE ALL THE PROFIT" from all commercial fisheries by-catch. The new reality in our fisheries future must be that commercial by-catch is going to cost you BIG. It really does not matter if it is a large fine or the charity donation, the Alaskan [filtered word] needs to organize and do whatever it takes to begin the process of eventually holding commercial fisheries accountable for the marine destruction it is causing within our ocean. The wholesale slaughter of non-targeted species is no longer just acceptable losses. This mean that the Alaskan public must rise up and compel the Alaska Board of Fish and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council to take action and make SUBSTANTIAL changes in the way ALL by-catch is processed by ALL of our commercial fisheries. This is a very reasonable goal for the Alaskan public to pursue in resolving this very unreasonable waste of our common Alaskan natural resource heritage.

If you are concerned about the king run, bycatch, closures, the pollock trawlers STILL FISHING and KILLING KINGS & HALIBUT sign & forward this petition to all your friends http://signon.org/sign/end-salmon-halibut-bycatch

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