Current weather

  • Clear sky
  • 63°
    Clear sky
  • Comment

State hesitant to discuss 2013 Kenai River king sonar data

Posted: December 5, 2013 - 9:51pm  |  Updated: December 6, 2013 - 10:37am
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion 
Sonar technician Brandon Key shows the new ARIS sonar the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is using to ensonify Kenai River king salmon.
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Sonar technician Brandon Key shows the new ARIS sonar the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is using to ensonify Kenai River king salmon.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game sonar technicians have been done processing data from the two king salmon sonar sites on the Kenai River since late October, however, staff have been largely unwilling to discuss 2013 results, saying interpretations are still in draft form.

Managers deferred questions to regional supervisor Jim Hasbrouck who said Fish and Game staff planned to have a Frequently Asked Questions document for the public sometime in the next week. He said he was not prepared to discuss specific results of the 2013 sonar data.

Hasbrouck, the southcentral regional supervisor, said Fish and Game staff had not been specifically told they could not discuss the results of the sonar program.

“To my knowledge there hasn’t been any message delivered to squelch people from talking; we’ve not had a meeting and said ‘OK, you guys can’t talk to the media about anything,” he said. “People are uncomfortable, I’m even uncomfortable talking about it because it is so new.”

The two sonar sites, one at river mile 8.6 and one at river mile 13.7, are used by the sportfish division of Fish and Game to count king salmon in the river. The former is used for inseason fisheries management while the latter is an experimental site Fish and Game staff are considering for management use in the future.

Steve Fleischman, a fisheries scientist in the Fish and Game statewide research and technical services office, said Monday he and others tasked with the postseason analysis were primarily done.

“I think we’ve pretty much done as much postseason scrutiny of the numbers as we’re going to and there were some surprises in there, but for the most part it kind of makes sense,” he said.

Still, he deferred specific questions to Hasbrouck and said it was not his decision to release new data to the public.

Hasbrouck said Fish and Game “higher-ups” needed to meet during the first week of December to discuss how Fish and Game would present the information.

“It’s not like this means that the interpretation is going to change,” Hasbrouck said. “There are just other people that are part of the discussion.”

From those discussions, Hasbrouck said Thursday he was concerned that if he spoke about 2013 season sonar data, he could say something in error.

“We’re working on this (question and answer) or FAQ ... there are a lot of people on the peninsula that have questions and you know they’ve got those questions and they don’t feel the department is providing them with an answer. Well, in large part it’s because we’re trying to figure it out,” Hasbrouck said.

Preseason, during public meetings Fish and Game managers and staff consistently said data from the experimental sonar site would not be used for inseason management and 2013 was the first time the new king sonar program was run for an entire season.

Trying to figure out the ins and outs of the new sonar site and how its data relates to data generated from the lower site is an ongoing process, Hasbrouck said.

“We were just trying to determine this year if we could actually operate a sonar program there and be able to get estimates of passage in some kind of production way inseason,” he said. “Can we even get sound in the water? What kind of problems may we run into at this particular site that affects the sound that’s in the water or will we see some really strange behavior such that it’s really not any better there than it is (at the original site)?”

While unwilling to discuss specifics, Hasbrouck did say staff considered the 2013 season’s “test run” of the experimental site a success.

Management for the 2014 fishing season will continue to be based on data that comes from the original king salmon sonar site at river mile 8.6 but staff will run the two sonar projects in tandem for the entirety of the next season, he said.

“There were so many questions that arose after the work that we did this year that we need to work on those and try to get those figured out,” Hasbrouck said. One of those questions will depend on the 2014 season and specifically how pink salmon interact with the new sonar site.

Pink salmon typically run up the Kenai river in even-numbered years so staff have yet to see how those salmon would interfere — or if they would interfere — with sonar ability to count king salmon.

Debby Burwen, a sportfish division biologist who has been with the Kenai king salmon sonar project for several years, wrote in an email that the department was not unnecessarily holding back information.

“Just because the data has been mostly processed, that doesn’t mean we have finished subjecting it to the scrutiny and quality control review that we typically perform post-season on all of our sonar data,” Burwen wrote.

Most of the post-season analysis she was referring to, she wrote, came from the department’s experimental sonar site at river mile 13.7, where managers ran a large bank-to-bank sonar array for the entire king salmon season to determine if the site could be used for fisheries management in the future.

“We really aren’t trying to be coy, we simply want to be very thorough before we release the ‘final’ estimates,” Burwen wrote. “People can get quite upset if you change your estimates even a small amount once these final estimates are released.”

Clarion file material was used in this article.

Reach Rashah McChesney at .

  • Comment

Comments (9) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Media Critic
Media Critic 12/06/13 - 11:20 am
Take a lesson, Clarion

Talk about trying to make something out of nothing. The report isn't final. The department is not releasing a draft that will need corrections later. Good for them.

It's an approach the Clarion should consider.

Instead of making it sound like Fish and Game is "hesitant to discuss" something that's not really ready for discussion, maybe wait the additional week or so they say it's going to take.

kenai123 12/06/13 - 02:30 pm
The reason for the ADF&G hesitation?

The reason for the ADF&G hesitation is obvious, the question and answer preparation is claiming that "if we say this the wrong way or allow anyone to speak their mind, the public will try to use it against us." You can hear it in the articles last line, “People can get quite upset if you change your estimates even a small amount once these final estimates are released.” The ADF&G and this story is blaming this ADF&G hesitancy on the public getting mad at them if they happen to say something and then try to change it. That's not the case but that is what the ADF&G is claiming.

The public doesn't get so worked up over the ADF&G making a mistake or a change, it gets really mad when the ADF&G takes a decade or two admitting one. It appears that the ADF&G is so afraid of making an error that even if they make one they will never admit it. They will just manipulate information until the public reacts the way they desire and then claim the manipulation is to prevent the public from going crazy. The real reason is that the ADF&G does not want to be forced to deal with the public... Why are they working a public natural resource job if they don't want to held account able by the public? Gee that sounds like most of the country now-a-days, have a job, make lots of money and be total unaccountable for whatever you do...

Unaccountability is part of the reason we have a king salmon problem today. According to the ADF&G we do not have a king salmon "management problem", just a period of "low abundance problem". Our king problem has to be some kind of "natural cause" because if not what else is left? Nothing but a fisheries management problem and that just can't happen right? Even if management did cause our king problems management would just again hesitate, rethink and hit the public with another round of smoke & mirrors until they again believed it was caused by someone or something other than our fisheries managers. Most of the reason our kings are gone is because EVERYONE (including the managers) believe that our fisheries managers "can do no wrong". Did you hear that? When is the last time our managers admitted to a fisheries management error? Maybe once every decade?
Who or what makes mistakes like that?

Our fisheries managers are wrong, we do not have A LOW KING ABUNDANCE PROBLEM. We have a fisheries manager problem. Those managers have allowed our commercial fisheries to over-harvest most of our marine resources and the loss of our king salmon is only the beginning as our sockeyes are sure to follow the same decline within the next decade. When that finally results EVERYONE will be finally shut-down and then 15 - 20 years later our runs will return. What say maybe 2035. Can you hold your breath till then?

KenaiKardinal88 12/07/13 - 07:58 am
ADF&G Biased Towards Commie Fishers

Everyone knew that the fish counts did not match what was happening in the river this summer. These bogus numbers benefited the commie fishers at the expense of us average Alaskans.

Now ADF&G needs time to cover their tracks and cook the books. State employees need to be fired over this mess.

borninak 12/07/13 - 08:03 am
Fish & Game Does A Great Job

I thought we were supposed to call Fish & Game and they would back up everything 123 has to say? At least that was his claim in earlier threads. Fish & Game does a great job managing our fisheries statewide and doesn't want to release reports until they can be presented with confidence and accuracy so wack jobs like 123 & KK88 don't seize the opportunity to spin it and manipulate it to suit their Greedy commercial fishing guide self interest. Leave Fish & Game alone and quit with the everyone but me is to blame for the naturally cycling low abundance king salmon problem we're currently having.

kenai123 12/07/13 - 05:12 pm
borninak, the ADF&G does not back up everything anyone says.

Dear borninak, our ADF&G does not "backup everything anyone claims" The department gets some things correct and something incorrect. It may take the ADF&G a decade or two to get it right but sometimes they do get it right.

Our ADF&G got the "fresh / saltwater" source of the king problem wrong up to about 2005. They had the public telling them for five years that the king problem had a saltwater origin but they refused to accept that reality until about 2010. So you would have heard me claiming that the ADF&G did not know what it is talking about regarding the origin king problem issue pre 2010 and then after 2010 claiming that they do know what they are talking about. Again, the ADF&G doesn't "back up everything" anyone has to say about anything. In many cases it just depends on the date and the issue as to if they appear to know what they are talking about. Today our ADF&G does not appear to know what they are talking about with regard to the "natural or man made" aspect of our ocean king problem. I will predict that this will change in the near future when they finally realize the truly reduced and lacking condition of our marine food chain.

Our fisheries managers have inadvertently allowed excessive commercial harvest of our marine resources. That over-harvest has allowed excess crab harvest, that mistake has resulted in reduced numbers of crab larvae, that reduction has magnified impacts on predators feeding on larger (more mature larvae). Juvenal king salmon feed exclusively on the larger larvae and sockeye on the smaller. In general our saltwater is now experiencing about a 98% reduction in the larger larvae. This leaves sockeyes with a sufficient food source and Juvenal kings with an inadequate food source. Our herring also prey on the larger larvae therefore they also have an inadequate food source. The bottom line is that if a king somehow manages to not starve to death as a juvenal, it then starves to death as an adult while searching for herring which have also starved to death.

Regardless as to what all the salmon crazy users believe, all of our commercial crab, herring and herring egg fisheries should be closed immediately. These commercial fisheries should be closed until we can verify that we again have sufficient crab larvae prey for our juvenal kings and herring.

Please try to ask yourself this question, when was the last time you heard or read an ADF&G report, study or research paper which even addressed what juvenal kings or herring feed on in the ocean? If you are like me the answer is never. Our ADF&G is so concerned with user allocations that they appear to not even be aware of this issue. I challenge anyone out there to locate these reports or studies, if you locate them please publish them because I cannot locate them. Because I cannot locate this information, I claim that it is not out there. I really hope that I am wrong but I see much Canadian data, research and studies on this ocean food web problem but nothing coming from Alaska. Why would our ADF&G appear to be so user allocation concerned while being so marine food web unconcerned? The marine food web fuels the harvest so it is clearly even more important than that harvest, yet our ADF&G spends most of its time addressing the harvest.

FrozenNorth 12/07/13 - 07:05 pm
King salmon

According to genetic sampling of Gulf of Alaska trawl by-catch, a significant percentage (approx. 60% in 2011) of Chinooks caught in the trawl fishery were of west coast (OR, WA, BC) origin. The Columbia River recently had the largest Chinook return in over 70 years, and other river systems, like the Klamath, had larger than normal returns too. Why is that? Those kings seem to have found something to eat out there in the ocean while they were growing up.

rwhobby 12/08/13 - 08:57 am

The clarion is so Biased about their opinion, the owner of the Clarion is more worried about writing his book about the Kenai River then stating the facts and being neutral, this is a small community newspaper.

kenai123 12/08/13 - 03:26 pm
Really FrozenNorth?

Really FrozenNorth? Why the claim "had the largest in 70 years? why not actual escapement/harvest data? If they counted only two kings per year in prior years and then "had the largest return in 70 years" that could be the results of getting back only 3 kings, which is meaningless. So is that what you were attempting to claim? Where are the actual numbers and locations? This is the kind of proof we have to put up with... Hey I caught a million kings the other day off in the twilight zone... Where are the links and the data?

kenai123 12/09/13 - 03:13 pm
So you think the Columbia has a good thing going?

Here is the actual deal, 600,000 kings returning to the Columbia River last fall,

This was the results of their hatcheries dumping hundreds of millions of kings into our ocean.
Columbia Dam Counts at are showing higher than normal escapements at the end of November 2013.

So far, 531,061 chinook have been counted at Bonneville and is the third largest return. The second largest return was 584,000 in 2004 and the largest was 610,000 in 2003.
The Upriver Bright adult chinook return is between 664,000 to 835,000 adult with a preseason forecast of 434,600. The previous record (since at least 1964) was 420,700 fish in 1987.

Columbia River Hatchery King Releases - 150,000,000 kings released and they are getting back 600,000 kings -

So what happened to the other 149,400,000 kings which the Columbia hatched out and released to the ocean but they never heard from again? No doubt the same thing that happened to all of Alaskan kings, they are all dead. With less than 1% of their drone king salmon making it back, what are the chances that our 100,000 wild Kenai kings end up part of the 99% not finding enough to eat for the return trip home? Our wild Alaskan juvenal kings are most likely starving to death at sea, out in the Gulf of Alaska, just like the other 99% which did not make it back to the Columbia River.

So what about those large Columbia River king return claims? What is so great about dumping hundreds of millions of kings into our ocean, only to have less than 1% return and the other 99% consuming all the prey our wild Alaskan kings normally would have consumed? Does this make sense to ANYONE? The Columbia River is not the only river doing this hatchery drone salmon dumping has become rampant in the last twenty years all around the Northern Pacific and adds up to constant ball of about 25 BILLION salmon drones swimming around in the Pacific Ocean. These drone salmon are then a very large part of the reason why our wild juvenal kings could be starving to death in the same ocean which used to be able to feed them.

From what I am seeing there is at least 5 billion artificial salmon being dumped into the North Pacific per year. That may sound bad but many of these artificial salmon will hunt prey on the North Pacific for up to 5 years before attempting to spawning. This would mean that within one feeding/migration cycle there could be up to 25 billion artificial salmon prowling the Pacific. This data from the North Pacific shows about 512 million wild salmon (see the below link) competing with 5 billion drone salmon annually. Within a five year cycle that could give 2.5 billion wild salmon competing with 25 billion hatchery salmon. This would give a 10 to 1 ratio. It used to be that our wild Alaskan kings were the only pickers in the berry patch but when you dump a possible new "25 billion screaming crazy drones" on top of that patch, what do you think is going to happen?

So should we copy what they are doing down on the Columbia? Are they doing it right down there and are we doing it wrong? Should we forget all of our wild salmon and switch to their drone salmon fisheries management plan? Is this actually what you are suggesting???
You really have got to be kidding! Trade our wild indestructible DNA for fragile frankenfish DNA? This is what I just love to hear from people who are to lazy to do their own research and don't know what on earth they are talking about but they are willing to blast the internet with their personal opinion, while claiming it to be fact. No person in their right mind would ever want to exchange our wild kings for hundreds of millions of drone kings but that don't matter RIGHT? Just make ill responsible claims and then move on to the next crazy claim which someone else will also research for you.....

Try taking a look at The Trouble With Hatcheries -

Or see what some of our biologists are saying about where our king problem is at.

“The canary in the coal mine for me is the Nelson River,” Robert Begich said.
The river, also called Sapsuck, is on the Alaska Peninsula between Nelson Lagoon and Cold Bay. “They’ve closed the king fishing there the last couple of years and nobody sport fishes there,” Begich said.

Biologists: Alaska king salmon woes tied to ocean
Kenai Mayor Pat Porter, left, speaks to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell following a news conference on July 20 in Anchorage. Porter attended a news conference led by Campbell and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell to address actions the state can take in light of the poor king salmon run statewide, affecting both subsistence and commercial fishermen.
Faced with a statewide king salmon crisis, state fish managers are banning Copper River dipnetters from keeping kings after midnight Sunday.
“The canary in the coal mine for me is the Nelson River,” Robert Begich said.
The river, also called Sapsuck, is on the Alaska Peninsula between Nelson Lagoon and Cold Bay.
“They’ve closed the king fishing there the last couple of years and nobody sport fishes there,” Begich said.
" From the 2012 symposium came a report by the ADFG Chinook Salmon Research Team that identified 12 indicator stocks from major river systems to portray the health of Alaska’s kings, and research priorities to better understand the forces at play. The problem is more complex than just blaming the poor returns on managers, and data suggests that the statewide king salmon decline may be outside of the realm of control for area biologists and attributable to ocean conditions such as changes in temperature, currents or food competition."
"Tom Vania, Fish and Game’s regional fisheries management coordinator for Cook Inlet, says the new restrictions this year shouldn’t surprise people, noting that only four of 17 Cook Inlet-area streams met their state escapement goals in 2012."
"We're in a period of low abundance and low returns, statewide, and whether it's from Southeast, Copper River, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Nushagak, Yukon, we're just in this period of low productivity in the ocean," said Ricky Gease, a biologist and director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.
Biologist Tom Vania, the Cook Inlet regional coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the widespread failures of king salmon returns indicate the problem isn't freshwater-based, such as not enough adult spawners in the prior generation, or a loss of eggs from some kind of river catastrophe."
Decline in king salmon is rooted in the sea, state biologists say. What ever's plaguing state's salmon isn't in the rivers, experts say.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Poor king salmon returns have state biologists limiting fishing throughout Alaska and biologists have their eyes on the ocean as the problem.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Something in the ocean has been death to Alaska's king salmon. Decline in king salmon is rooted in the sea, Alaska state biologists say.

Back to Top


Please Note: You may have disabled JavaScript and/or CSS. Although this news content will be accessible, certain functionality is unavailable.

Skip to News

« back

next »

  • title
  • title
  • title
My Gallery


  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback