Three generations of the Clucas family gathered in front of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game offices on Monday to protest the continued closure and season restrictions on local fishermen.
More than 100 people, mostly setnetters from parts of the East Side setnet fishery, gathered to rally against the continued closure of their fishery, a restriction several fishermen said would have a devastating impact on the local economy.
Jon Clucas stood with his mother, Janet Clucas, and 10 other members of their immediate family talking about their nets and homes in the Ninilchik area.
“What do you do if you can’t fish? I don’t know,” Janet said. “I’m 70. What else am I going to do?”
Several people held up a large banner for the setnetters and another group parked a truck and skiff along the side of the road, extolling passersby to honk in support. Protests of varying size were held Friday when about 200 people gathered in the Kenai park strip and over the weekend as passage estimates for king salmon continue to remain low while sockeye salmon passage estimates are increasing.
The sport fish division’s DIDSON sonar king salmon passage estimate on the Kenai River is still below the previous two years. The latest estimate is 7,409 late run kings according to the department.
Meanwhile, the Kenai River sockeye salmon estimate for Sunday was more than 110,000, bringing the season total to 806,262.
To help cope with a sockeye run the department projects will exceed 2.3 million fish, the sport fishing division issued an emergency order Friday that expanded dipnetting hours at the mouth of the Kenai River to 24 hours per day.
Another order delivered the same day increased the bag and possession limit for salmon 16 inches or longer, other than king and coho salmon, from three per day, three in possession to six per day, 12 in possession. No more than two of the fish meeting those guidelines can be coho salmon.
Rita Clucas, Jon’s wife, said she hoped people understood that the motive behind the protests.
“People see signs that say ‘let us fish’ and they don’t understand that we are very conservation minded,” she said. “We want this industry to be here forever.”
She referenced Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell’s recent statement that the Cook Inlet region could potentially qualify for an economic disaster declaration after the season ends.
“There’s no one here that wants to be a charity case, we want to work,” she said.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org