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Board of Fish rejects emergency petitions

Posted: July 31, 2012 - 8:38pm  |  Updated: August 1, 2012 - 3:21pm

Update: The Alaska Board of Fisheries voted against taking up four petitions presented in Wednesday's meeting.

The first set of petitions regarding the Cook Inlet central district's commercial drift fleet and its effects on northernbound salmon failed with all six board members who were present voting against them.

The last petition, one filed by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association was rejected with a split 3-3 vote after extensive discussion on the particulars of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's management practices.


The Alaska Board of Fisheries will meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday via teleconference to discuss several petitions requesting emergency actions regarding commercial fisheries in the Cook Inlet.

Three of the petitioners requested action on conserving salmon stocks headed for the Northern District in the Upper Cook Inlet and another — Kenai River Sportfishing Association — requested continued closure of the east side setnet fishery. 

In order for the Board of Fisheries to take action on a petition it must first find the petition meets the criteria of an emergency, then what emergency regulations to adopt in response.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game wrote responses to the petitions suggesting none of them meet the criteria of an emergency. According to Fish and Game, both the below-average run of king salmon and the above-average run of sockeye salmon on the Kenai River — the in-season catalyst for the department’s management decisions now being questioned in the petitions — were expected.

Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association said between 10 and 16 percent of the Kenai River king salmon run returns to the river in August. Given the low return of kings so far, that percentage of the run could be significant, he said.

According to the association’s petition, allowing the east side setnet fishery to open in August could harm the king salmon stock, counteracting restrictions placed on the in-river sport fishery in July. 

The automatic closure of the setnet fishery when the in-river fishery is restricted expired yesterday, meaning the commercial fishing division could reopen the fishery in August to harvest surplus sockeye during this season’s above-average run.

While that expiration doesn’t mean the setnet fishermen will immediately be allowed back into the water, the option is there. 

“We’ve had very serious discussions, they involved staff from both divisions, weighing the options, weighing the outcomes of fishing versus not fishing.” said Pat Shields, area biologist for the commercial fishing division of Fish and Game. “We’re kind of waiting to see what the board does.”

Gease said the risk to the fragile king salmon fishery was too great to allow setnetters to “mop up the sockeye.”

“There is no harvest-able surplus (kings) if you’re not going to meet your minimum (king) escapement,” Gease said.

Andy Couch, a Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee member and Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife commission member filed a petition requesting clarification of the Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan and asking that the board take measures to conserve northern-bound salmon stock. 

In Couch’s petition he criticizes a Fish and Game emergency order  allowing the drift fleet to fish in the expanded Kenai and Kasilof corridors and Area 1 — a corridor which runs East of the Kalgin Island and west of the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers.

According to his petition, Couch believes there was no consideration given to northern-bound salmon despite a section of the area’s drift gillnet fishery management plan stating the commercial drift fleet should be managed for adequate escapement into the Northern District.

“It is unacceptable to Alaskan residents living within the Matanuska Susitna Borough, that the only justification needed to sidestep a (Board of Fisheries) management plan, seems to be a desire to harvest more Kenai and Kasilof River sockeye salmon — especially, in an area where the highest commercial harvest of a sockeye Stock of Concern, and Northern District bound coho salmon already occurs,” Couch wrote in his petition.

Bruce Knowles, chairman of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish and Game Commission, submitted a petition asking the board to prevent Fish and Game from issuing emergency orders that would impede Northern District salmon stocks citing low escapements for sockeye and coho salmon.

Ben Allen, a Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission Member requested the board change Fish and Game’s management practices to conserve Northern District coho salmon stocks; adhere to guidelines set by the board of fisheries and prohibit the department from issuing any further emergency orders that would have a negative impact on northern-bound coho salmon stocks. 

Last Thursday, the board voted 5-to-2 at an emergency meeting to not take action on petitions from several area setnetters who have been out of the water for the bulk of their season.

A listen-only teleconference will be held in the Kenai Legislative Information Office, 145 Main St. Loop, Suite 217. 


Rashah McChesney can be reached at

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julie 08/01/12 - 06:58 am
End Salmon Bycatch Petitionn

Fish & Game people KNOW what the problem is but are ignoring it or perhaps they've been payed off too? Mr Gease, you know that the trawling business is STILL FISHING & PRODUCING CHINOOK SALMON BYCATCH? That's fish they are not allowed by licence to keep so they throw our precious ESCAPEMENT OF FISH overboard DEAD! You and everyone else should know this is an emergency and stop ignoring the REAL problem! The trawlers are killing the run! What isn't an emergency about a whole group of ALASKAN fishermen that don't get to fish and are financially ruined now. What isn't an emergency when the escapement isn't being met but the trawlers get to kill, throw overboard at no cost or loss to themselves? Sign this petition & forward it to everyone you know. Tell our governor as our consitution states those fish belong to the people of ALASKA! He has sold our fish and their future to outsiders!

Carver 08/01/12 - 07:10 am
Just go away . . . !

What can one expect? The KRSA crowd has been after the East side set-nets for years. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing every last Kenai king disappear . . they aren't worth it . . the in-river, king salmon sport-fishery is responsible for 99 percent of all the divisiveness and community discord associated with the Kenai River.

Take it somewhere else . . I'm sick of the nastiness dumped on our area by this stupid preoccupation with "size matters" in pursuit of the economics of ego.

spwright 08/01/12 - 08:13 am
Fish Wars 8/1/12

As long as I can remember, there has been FISH WARS between the User Groups. Year after Year, Season after Season of bitter ugly fighting & finger pointing.

Meanwhile back at the Ranch, the DEEP SEA TRAWLERS are scooping up the Salmon by the 1000's of tons of fish & Laughing All the Way to the Bank.

What happened to the On Board Observers that are paid to monitor the fish catch on board the Trawlers ?
International Treaty between Nations that are supposed to
monitor & stop the Raping of the Seas ? ?

Instead of constant Fighting with each other & fellow Alaskans
All user groups need to focus their attention to the Deep Sea Trawler Fleet. That is the Source of the Problem.


julie 08/01/12 - 08:28 am
End Salmon Bycatch Petition

Yes spwright! So encourage EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO SIGN THIS PETITION & forward it to everyone! Also the natives have been silenced in order to get

freedomlibertytruth 08/01/12 - 11:01 am
SPWRIGHT how many countries

SPWRIGHT how many countries own the deep sea trawlers?
do you know who is getting the fish and getting rich?
good points by the way.

Seafarer 08/03/12 - 10:48 am
Allotment Battle

I, too, am sick of the KRSA thinking they own the Kenai River. SICK OF IT!!!! Ever since I moved to this area all I've heard is fighting over allotment. The KRSA is the biggest corrupt bunch I've ever heard of and I've been here 59 years. No wonder I want to move (if I could afford it). As a Commercial Fisherlady (retired) I cannot say "commercial fisherman" without getting ugly stares and bitter comments. Yeah, it is the Trawlers, which is a commercial fishery I've never liked. They destroy the sea bottom. They interrupt the natural order of things.

But the KRSA really doesn't care about all that; they only want their membership, out-of-state guides, to own the fish and keep their wallets full while they take the money outside. It sickens this lifelong Alaskan. Gease used to be in Cordova and we all thought he truely cared, but now we see he has sold out to the robber barons, the KRSA. You used to be a biologist, Ricky, but now you are nothing but a shill. All respect I had for you is out the window.

kenai123 08/04/12 - 01:59 am
"wouldn't mind seeing every last Kenai king disappear"?

Carver, I thought I had heard it all, but your ignorance is beyond any which I have come across. You stated that "Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing every last Kenai king disappear . . they aren't worth it" This is the reason why we are here today people. Because of people like Carver, he would like to see the permanent extinction of our Kenai River Giant King Salmon! The Kenai River is THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH which is home to these monster dinosaurs and Carver wants to wipe them off the face of the earth! Is there anyone out there wondering how all the dinosaurs got wiped off the planet? We didn't need any flaming comet or meteorite slamming into the planet to kill them off, all we needed was a caveman like Carver! "they aren't worth it" he claims? The true value of each king from the Kenai River is probably around a million dollars per fish in actual value to the planet. What would a living Tyrannosaurs recks be worth today; a million or maybe even a billion dollar? We have living dinosaurs swimming in the Kenai River and Carver want to murder them all to take away his personal mental hang-ups.
Carver also states that "the king salmon sport-fishery is responsible for the discord connected to the Kenai River". Really? Are you Carver part of this sport-fishery, because you just generated a whole can of Kenai River discord with your monstrous ignorance regarding the true value of our commonly owned Kenai River fisheries resource. You want us to "take it somewhere else"? Why don't you take it somewhere else because I am tired of your nastiness, which you have dumped onto this board with your disregard to the true uniqueness of what is swimming in the Kenai River.
Yes Carver size and uniqueness does matter. The world record for king salmon was caught on May 17th, 1985 on the Kenai River by Les Anderson. That monster weighed 97.4 pounds and can now be seen mounted in a glass case in the Soldotna Visitor Center, next to the Soldotna Kenai River bridge. No doubt Carver is a gill-netter and that occupacation seems to drain all the youthful exuberance out of a person because after you catch a hundred salmon in a net, you just can't seem to see all the heart-pounding exhilaration a NORMAL person gets when they hook into a monster king salmon. Your mind goes blank as you set the hook into something which seems like a snag at first but then it starts throbbing your rod tip and you know it's something really big. As your mind spins with the wonder of what you have hooked into, the thing suddenly rips up river and the chase is on.
Up and down the river you fight the fish as it skids across the surface, while you clench your teeth and crank the reel as fast as you can. The boats engine roars and everyone is screaming as it lunges towards that log-jam and you pull as hard as you can, while tightening your drag down as much as you dare. Suddenly the thing blasts to the surface beside the boat and showers everyone with a blast of ice cold Kenai River water and he is gone. Broken-hearted you stare at the snarled stub of a line hanging off the tip of your rod; yeah he torn you up but that's okay because you loved every second of it...
Carver, you want to make sure that we never have a chance to hook into a giant king or feel the thrill of chasing after him? You want us to dry-up inside like you and hope our giant Kenai Kings go away? You are wrong Carver, we don't need to kill the dinosaurs just because they might bother you and we don't need to see every last Kenai king disappear because you don't like people talking or writing about them. I have a feeling folks will be talking and writing about them for a very long time no matter what; but what can one expect?

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