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Hearing in Cook Inlet fishing lawsuit set for July 30

Posted: July 23, 2013 - 10:19pm

An Anchorage judge will hear Cook Inlet fishermen’s request for additional fishing time July 30.

The Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund, or CIFF, filed a lawsuit against the Alaska Department of Fish and Game July 15, asking that a court require the Department to provide setnetters with additional fishing time.

CIFF and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will each have the opportunity to state their case in a July 30 hearing.

Judge Andrew Guidi scheduled the July 30 evidentiary hearing and oral argument after asking the parties about the information and discussion they thought was necessary during Tuesday’s status hearing.

Attorney Leslie Need said CIFF planned to have at least three witnesses.

State of Alaska attorney Lance Nelson told the judge that Fish and Game would like to continue updating the courts on its management. In the middle of the fishing season, management can change regularly, he said.

Guidi told both sides to exchange their witness lists by the end of business on Thursday, and exchange exhibits by the end of the day Friday.

CIFF has said that given the strong sockeye runs, Fish and Game should provide more opportunity for setnetters to fish.

As of Monday, a little more than one million sockeyes had passed the sonar on the Kenai River. The sustainable escapement goal for the run is 700,000 to 1.2 million fish. Not all of the fish that have passed the sonar so far are included in determining whether or not the goal has been met, as there is harvest upriver of the sonar.

Unlike last summer, when low king counts lead to severely limited fishing time for setnetters, they have fished most of their regular periods this year, and had some additional time. But they haven’t received the full 51 extra hours that the management plan says is a possibility in times of sockeye abundance.

On Tuesday, Fish and Game also announced that it would close certain areas to setnetters to protect Kenai kings during the regularly scheduled Thursday period.

Affadavits from setnetters talk about the financial loss of forgone fishing time, and also note that the drift fleet has been used to fish closer in to the beach, where setnet sites are based.

The lawsuit accuses Fish and Game of reallocating fish from setnetters to other users because setnet fishermen have not received the maximum possible fishing opportunity.

The drift fleet has received some additional harvest opportunity.

Fish and Game has weighed concerns for king salmon returns in deciding how much fishing time to allow.

On Tuesday, Fish and Game announced that it was limiting king fishing to catch-and-release and trophy fishing only to help meet escapement goals, and then limited Kenai setnetters as well.

As of Monday, about 8,291 kings were counted on the Kenai, fewer than had returned by the same date in 2012. But, the 2012 run was late — about a third of the run showed up after August 1 — and that could be a possibility this year.

In Tuesday’s announcements, Fish and Game stated that at current harvest rates, the king run was not projected to meet its sustainable escapement goal.

Personal-use fishermen on the Kenai also are not allowed to retain kings caught while targeting sockeyes, although the personal-use fishery has been otherwise liberalized. Fish and Game has also announced that the Kenai personal-use fishery would be open 24 hours per day.

The Kenai King Conservation Alliance has also asked to intervene in the suit.

The nonprofit, which is registered in Anchorage, would participate on Fish and Game’s side of the case, said lawyer Sherman Ernouf during the Tuesday status hearing.

Guidi said that if the alliance, or KKCA, is allowed to participate, it would share the time allotted to the state for its defense.

CIFF’s response to KKCA’s request to participate was not filed as of press time. The king alliance was formed in May. Its mission is to preserve and protect Kenai River king salmon.

“I want my grandkids to have the chance to catch (kings),” said founder Bob Penney. “If we don’t protect them, they’ll be gone.”

Penney and five other longtime Alaskans founded the organization after the Board of Fisheries chose not to enact additional protections for Kenai River kings at its March 2013 statewide meeting, Penney said.

If the organization is allowed to participate in the lawsuit, Ernouf said it will be making the point that no one should be fishing.

“There’s hardly any kings left,” Ernouf said.

Penney, Mark Hamilton and Dennis Mellinger are registered as the nonprofit’s directors in its filing with the State of Alaska.

The organization has also filed for federal nonprofit status, but that is pending. Ernouf said that the alliance was formed to represent king salmon’s interests. The founders were avid fishermen, and noticed the declining king resource in the last three to five years. While there are several groups speaking on behalf of fishermen, there was “no one advocating for the fish itself,” Ernouf said.

Penney and Hamilton both listed Anchorage residences in incorporation documents for the nonprofit, but they also have homes on the Kenai and are members of Kenai River Sportfishing Association’s board of directors. Penney is also a KRSA founder.

This isn’t the first time commercial fishermen have asked the court to make in-season management changes. In July 2011, the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, Copper River Seafoods and three individual fishermen filed suit against Fish and Game and the Board of Fisheries over an emergency regulation that limited fishing for the drift fleet.

Judge Guidi heard that case, and quickly ruled in the commercial fishermen’s favor. His ruling said the state did not have the necessary emergency basis to enact the late regulations limiting the fleet, and invalidated those regulations.

In the case, the Kenai River Sportfishing Association participated as an intervenor.

The July 30 hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. in Anchorage’s Nesbett Courthouse, although the state has filed a petition regarding the location, which has not yet been addressed.

Molly Dischner can be reached at

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kenai123 07/27/13 - 12:51 am
interest in actual conserving or restoring king salmon?

You can trust very few of the words coming from a person who sells fish for a living. You can take a dollar for indirect fisheries services and not be totally corrupted but if you (directly sell a fish for a dollar), your words are compromised and lack real meaning. It is the pound of flesh for a buck which compromises the mind. How much money is enough? Just one more dollar. How much fish is enough? Just one more fish. Commercial fishing showed its true colors back in 1959 when it LOGICALLY and selectively used fish traps to completely destroy Alaska's salmon fisheries. That same commercial mind which made that logical decision back then, still functions flawlessly today as it LOGICALLY believes that it can selectively use set gill nets to harvest our salmon. Each year our salmon stocks reduce more while these same commercial minds pay off fisheries managers and record keepers to allow them to manipulate management plans to allow their continued gill net operations. These set net commercial fishermen are using the same commercial fisheries logic as was used by commercial fish trap owner back in the 1950's and it will result in the same fisheries disaster. Everyone shut-down for many years the same as was done from 1959 to 1975. This is nothing but a repeat folks. You can call it FISH WARS but with this war EVERYONE is going to lose. The only way out of this looming disaster is for the state to completely ban all set gill nets and allow only drift gill nets to harvest our sockeye salmon.

Everyone tries to tell me that our anglers care about our kings. That is hard to believe when we all know that these same anglers have known for years that our ADF&G has been managing our kings for the express benefit of only commercial fisheries. Every once in a while the ADF&G may get side tracked and accidentally restrict these commercial fisheries but the general ADF&G plan is to manage EVERYTHING to benefit the sockeye and therefore the commercial industry. This is a long-term commercial fisheries management goal and a million letters to nowhere is not going to affect it.

Our current salmon management in Cook Inlet is basically only affected by politics' at the state and federal levels and not fisheries biology or conservation. Just look at our fisheries associations statewide, they are basically (user group associations). None of these groups are mainly interested in conserving or restoring king salmon, they are mainly interested in promoting a fisheries agenda in order to allow themselves to harvest something. This is the same type of (produce it / harvest it) agenda commercial fisheries promote and we all know where that led to back in 1959. Our fisheries user groups should be more into conserving and restoring king runs for sake of the run, regardless of the harvest. This (produce / harvest connection) has taken our king stocks to their knees as everyone is out there chasing something until that something is no longer able to meet their harvest expectations. Then they move onto another job or location to do the same somewhere else. We need fisheries organizations which focus on king salmon restoration for fish, not the potential king harvest.

We need fisheries organizations which focus on sockeye salmon fisheries with regard to how their gear type may affect king salmon runs, not their potential sockeye harvest. We currently only have fisheries organizations which focus totally on the potential harvest or allocation they may receive. This season is a lost cause because of this on going harvest / allocation focus, as was last season but we may be able to affect our future seasons and king runs.

Many of our Statewide Salmon Management Plan needs to be completely rewritten to REDUCE the (harvest allocation focus) and include a new (king stock restoration and fisheries management compatibility focus). We are seeing some brave scientists headed out into this uncharted direction, you can read about it at article_9d2f25c8-eca6-11e2-9400-001a4bcf6878.html

beaverlooper 07/25/13 - 01:09 pm
No one is listening.

You keep spouting the same tired old crap day after day. You are harming your cause more than helping. Everybody knows you hate commercial fishing and commercial fishermen and women. You'll be out of business pretty soon and I for one will be cheering.

kenai123 07/27/13 - 12:42 am


kenai123 07/27/13 - 12:32 am
nobody hates commercial fishing

I know of nobody who hates the commercial fishing industry. In its original "constitutional form" the industry was a righteous fishery. That original form understood its original target of utilizing "surplus public fish stocks". That original target vanished almost as soon as the ink dried on the constitution. Our current commercial fishermen believe that their new target is to claim that they own this public fisheries resource and they have no concept of their original target. The target today is "pedal to the metal", make as much money as you can while manipulating the politicians and management along the way. Anglers do not hate the commercial fishing industry, they really dislike the current bunch of commercial fishermen who have high-jacked our original "constitutional commercial fishing industry".

You may ask "how are our current commercial fishermen operating unconstitutional"? When I see a resident husband & wife driving around in a zodiac raft for ten hours dip netting in the lower Kenai River and are only able to net 5 -10 sockeyes, while a gill netter makes a single set and takes 500 - 1,000 sockeyes, I think that is not fair fisheries access. I believe that those dip netters should have been allocated their fish first and then if there were a surplus, commercial fisheries should then be allowed access. Things are backwards right now. Residents want to put sockeyes into their freezers but a lot of them cannot go fishing everyday of the week to get them. They have to work for a living to try to survive. In general, gill netters are allowed to take way to many fish and that is causing a lot of things and people are suffering.

Unfortunately your belief in business being and running everything is a large part of your problem. There is fishing and there is business, the two function fairly well separate. As soon as you connect them you eventually destroy the fishing. You do not understand this reality yet but you will eventually.

kenai123 07/27/13 - 12:40 am
wasted cash

The Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund, or CIFF just wasted a pile of cash suing the Alaska Department of Fish, ADF&G. As soon as the state labels you to be a separate and different limited entry USE, the state can then legally do anything they want to do to you regarding restrictions. All they have to do is come up with some kind of logical reason to tell the courts. In this case all they have to tell the courts is that the Cook Inlet east side set nets are impacting Kenai River kings to much and "no injunction".

kenai123 07/27/13 - 04:45 pm
beaverlooper, fisheries truth.

Everyone is aware that you don't like the fisheries truth. Regarding your cheering as you look forward to other fisherman's business demise. You are like Jamie in the movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales" where the kid Jamie says "Whopped 'em again, didn't we Josey!" as he dripples blood all over creation just before he gut shot dies.
For your information, the ESSN fishery has been begging someone to knock it out of business since about 1990 because they openly claimed to not care about Kenai River king salmon. The fishery was then gut shot in 2012 and has been drippling all over creation ever since.

jpblough 08/01/13 - 09:16 am

who are you Kenai123?

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