Kenai to ban dipnet fish waste from beaches

The City of Kenai will fine individuals dumping fish carcasses and other refuse on its beaches in an effort to keep the North and South beaches clean during the July dipnet fishery season. The city now requires that dipnetters dump fish waste into the water.

 

City Manager Rick Koch said fish parts collected in piles and rotted on the beach last dipnet season. Area residents testified to the council that seagulls had dumped fish heads in their yards.

Koch described last year’s scene as “unsanitary, unsightly and uncomfortable.”

As part of its dipnet management plan, the Kenai City Council passed an ordinance at its April 17 meeting to prohibit fish waste and trash dumping on beaches, among other places, and reduced the associated fine from $500 to $150.

The city will also place Dumpsters along North Beach and additional Dumpsters along South Beach, hire two more temporary enforcement officers, and rake the fish waste to the low tide line more frequently, Koch said.

The management steps will cost the city about $172,350, according to a document Koch prepared for a Jan. 7 council meeting. The cost includes the purchase of a tractor and rake to comb the fish waste to the shoreline, more signage, additional four-wheelers for enforcement officers, and increased operating costs, according to the document.

“We’re not doing anything different than we did before, just doing more of it,” Koch said.

At the early January council meeting, Koch outlined six options for addressing the annual dipnet fishery issues. The council chose what Koch said is the least expensive option, aside from inaction.

The additional Dumpsters and the increased fine enforcement should deter dumping of fish carcasses and trash on the beach, he said.

“Hopefully folks will walk a hundred feet to throw something away,” he said.

The city reduce the dumping fine to discourage violators from fighting the citation in court, he said.

“It’s not about the money; it’s about trying to get their attention,” he said.

A $150 ticket is still high enough to discourage violating the law, but it is low enough that it will likely not be challenged in court, he said. As some of the temporary enforcement officers are college students and may intermittently be out of state, he said it would be difficult scheduling court appearances.

Raking the fish waste in the water will also reduce the amount of bacteria that builds up in the water, said Tim Stevens, Department of Environmental Conservation environmental program specialist for the division of water.

Stevens said the majority of the bacteria found in the water likely comes from bird guano. He said they feed on the fish parts on the beach and then leave their droppings in the water.

“Getting it back into the water helps us get it back into the tide and the ocean,” Stevens said. Once in the ocean, he said, the birds frequent the beach less.

He said it is also less likely that birds will drop fish heads and other large fish parts on area resident’s lawns if the waste is washed out in the ocean.

Koch said some of the fish waste tends to wash back initially, but after it is raked back several times the tides take it all.

In past dipnet seasons the seagulls have hovered over the beach in clouds, eager for the fish carcasses, he said.

Stevens said DEC would prefer the city eventually compost or turn the fish waste into fish meal, rather than raking it out to sea. But Koch said the city’s steps are only building up to a more permanent solution.

Stevens said DEC will monitor the ocean during the dipnet season to see the effects raking the fish waste out to sea will have on the bacteria levels in the water.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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