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Board ups Kenai king goal, then lowers it

Posted: February 3, 2014 - 11:00pm  |  Updated: February 4, 2014 - 8:01pm
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  A crowd gathered with Alaska Board of Fisheries members Tom Kluberton and Orville Huntington after the boartded voted in favor of a new, higher escapement goal for late run Kenai river king salmon during a meeting Monday Feb. 3, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska.
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion A crowd gathered with Alaska Board of Fisheries members Tom Kluberton and Orville Huntington after the boartded voted in favor of a new, higher escapement goal for late run Kenai river king salmon during a meeting Monday Feb. 3, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Update Tuesday Feb. 4: Board of Fish member Tom Kluberton motioned to reconsider the Board of Fisheries vote and that motion was passed.  Subsequently, the board voted down the new goal. 


After three hours of debate and several off-the-record conversations with an increasingly agitated audience — some wiping away tears as they spoke to board members — the Alaska Board of Fisheries increased the escapement goal for late-run king salmon on the Kenai River.

After the vote, members of the sportfishing advocacy organization that submitted the original proposal and the large group of commercial setnet fishers in the audience who face the possibility of reduced fishing time next season were united in their lack of enthusiasm for the result.

Next summer, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will be tasked with trying to ensure that between 16,600 and 30,000 late run kings return to the Kenai River. That’s more than the previous escapement goal, set by ADFG at 15,000 to 30,000 last March.

The new goal passed in a 4-3 vote, with board members Tom Kluberton, Karl Johnstone, Reed Morisky and Orville Huntington voting in favor.

After the meeting however, Kluberton and Huntington met with a large group of aggravated commercial fishermen and Kluberton said he would motion to reconsider the vote during Tuesday’s meeting which — if passed — will reopen the debate.

At issue is an escapement goal range on the Kenai River that some users believe is too low, and others believe is adequate to sustain a healthy run of king salmon.

An escapement goal is the number of spawning fish returning to the river that managers think will result in the strongest future runs of fish.

The two types of goals being discussed were the current sustainable escapement goal, set by ADFG and confirmed by the board of 15,000-30,000, and the new optimum escapement goal. That goal can be set by the board and generally includes additional fish for in-river harvest, according to the state’s definition of optimum escapement goals.

To reach the new goal range, ADFG will adjust fishing opportunity throughout the season for sport anglers who target kings, as well as commercial fishermen targeting sockeyes, who also catch some kings in their nets.

Commercial area management biologist Pat Shields told board members that a jump in 1,500 fish could have represented a significant loss to the commercial setnet fishery during the 2013 season.

He took the 1,500 king salmon and divvied the potential loss in harvest between the commercial and sport fishery — about 750 fish to each.

“In the last year, we would have lost the last three periods, we wouldn’t have been able to fish and that would have made about 250,000 sockeye salmon which would not have been harvested to save those 750 king salmon,” Shields said.

Megan Smith, a Cook Inlet eastside setnetter, said she appreciated the department breaking down the 2013 season to figure out what the change would mean for fishermen. She supported the original escapement goal.

“They use the best available data and science,” she said.

Board member Fritz Johnson said he opposed the change based partially on his rough calculations of the amount of money it would cost setnetters.

“250,000 five-pound sockeye is 1.25 million pounds at $2 a pound is roughly $2.5 million dollars which, if you divided that by 600 setnet permit holders, that’s about $4,000 a permit holder,” he said. “The numbers that we’re talking about here are slim at best, but the impact to the setnet fishery, I think, is significant.”

The board had two proposals to consider that would have adjusted the goal, and ultimately chose a different number entirely.

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association, or KRSA, proposed an optimal escapement goal of 20,000 to 40,000 kings while Scott Miller, owner of Soldotna’s Trustworthy Hardware, a major supplier of fishing gear to local and visiting sportfishermen, proposed a goal of 17,800 to 35,700. No action was taken on that proposal, because the amended KRSA proposal passed.

Kevin Delaney, a fishery biology consultant for KRSA, said the group felt 20,000 to 40,000 as an escapement goal range was a “scientifically appropriate goal,” but the group did not want to argue for a goal that would keep everyone from fishing.

“The board has spoken so now we have to go do the best we can,” he said after the vote.

Prior to settling on 16,600 the board discussed new goals of 16,500 and 17,500, but ultimately selected the middle number.

Board members also referenced other concerns with the current goal of 15,000 before making their decision.

Kluberton said that additional fish in the river would help provide a buffer for the increasing number of jack king salmon seen entering the river, which are not as productive at spawning as larger male kings.

He also talked about other river systems, where the board has taken a more precautionary approach when it is setting a goal lower than escapements that ADFG has previously recorded.

The original escapement goal was based on a run reconstruction. Peer reviewers generally supported the model behind it, but runs as low as 15,000 kings have not occurred recently, and the department has not seen what actually returns at those levels.

Ray Beamesderfer, the fisheries science consultant who helped KRSA develope its goal range, said the board’s action appeared to respond to that issue.

“I think there’s a lot of uncertainty whenever we’re below the range where we’ve been before,” he said.

Beamesderfer said the board’s action reflected concerns about the ability to hit the range precisely, and a fear that if the final escapement came in below the 15,000 number, future returns could be compromised.

“Fishery management is a shotgun, not a rifle,” Beamesderfer said. Having managers aim a little higher than the target gives them a better chance of hitting it, he said.

In supporting a higher goal, Johnstone also mentioned that while he supported ADFG, there is competing science about the escapement goal and the numbers behind it.

Board member Sue Jeffrey, who voted against the final range, said that the sustainable salmon fisheries policy calls for the board to consider the best available economic information, as well as biological factors.

The board also deliberated on proposals to change or rescind the Upper Cook Inlet Salmon Management plan, but none passed. The board is meeting in Anchorage to discuss changes to Upper Cook Inlet finfish fisheries as part of its regular three-year cycle.

Discussion of king salmon proposals will continue at 8 a.m. today.


Reach Rashah MCChesney at and Molly Dischner at

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salamatof_flyer 02/04/14 - 09:34 am
Jack attack

Not only are jacks (small Chinook males who return to the river after only 1 or 2 years in the ocean) "not as productive at spawning" as their older, larger counterparts, but they're also much more likely to produce jacks as offspring. As part of a greater pattern, this is pretty disturbing news. In 2013 the king run was 88% male and, alarmingly, 66% jacks. Size concerns aside, this kind of sex ratio is not sustainable. For more details on how targeting the larger kings has changed the genetic makeup of the Kenai run, take a look at this video.

TheKenaiKid 02/04/14 - 12:31 pm

Might want to change the headline, since the editor's note at the top of the story says that everything that follows was undone this morning.

KenaiKardinal88 02/04/14 - 07:57 pm
Commie Fishing Thugs Win Again - Salmon Lose

The thugs won again. The Commie fisher will kill the Kenai Kings (already have), then they will be back to destroy the sockeye salmon runs on the Kenai. When they finish, they will be back in Seattle and Hawaii with OUR money.

The only thing the average Alaskan fisher has in common with salmon, is that they both lose.

sparky 02/04/14 - 10:17 pm

It appears that the board caved in to pressure ! The solution to this problem should have nothing to do with $$$$,only what is best for the kings.Based on Mr.Johnson's senario,re.the loss of one day,it's apparent that there are too many set netters.If we can't get them banned,maybe the State of Alaska should buy out at least 1/2 of them.
Have you ever been down on the beach when they are there netting (fishing) ?It's horrible.Metal stakes,ropes, pulleys,boats,cars,trucks,abandoned vehicles,make-shift housing,garbage,human waste,etc.It's all there & lots of it !
It makes our beaches ugly & Dangerous.

Raoulduke 02/05/14 - 05:33 am
Define Please!

KK-88 What is meant by your term "COMMIE FISHER"? You have used this term consistently but have given no reply to any inquiry regarding the meaning of the term.Your definition would help with understanding your term of "COMMIE FISHER".

Raoulduke 02/05/14 - 05:46 am
The Kings

Well! One fishing group wants to close the fishery to the other fishing groups,and it goes like this through ALL the fishing groups.Around,and Around the finger pointing goes.No Conservation of the Kings mentioned collectively.Which leads me to believe.So long as one group gets theirs.Its O.K.Very one sided,and SELFISH.If any of the complaining fishing groups were serious about preserving,and conserving the LIFE of the King fishery.Then ALL groups should be for the CLOSING of the fishery.If not.Then these groups are blinded by the monetary gain.Which leaves these fishing groups rather short sighted.Closing of the fishery to conserve the King IS the ONLY needed action.I am sure this comment will not go over well.But you know it is the only viable conservation action left.This should not be a political issue.This is a sustainability issue.

pengy 02/05/14 - 07:50 am
Harvest our way back to

Harvest our way back to abundance. History shows that works real well........NOT.

kingsize 02/05/14 - 10:36 pm
Kluberton back waters under Commercial Set Netters pressure.

Sparky hits it right on the head. This thing shouldn't be about money,,,it should be about the King Salmon.

The BOF on Monday set the escapement goals at 16,600 and 30,000. Vice Chair Kluberton, from Talkeetna, at the time said this; "Kluberton said that additional fish in the river would help provide a buffer for the increasing number of jack king salmon seen entering the river". He was all for it and it passed 4 to 3 on the vote at the end of the day. Meeting closed and several Set Netters closed in on Kluberton and the result was he back peddled saying he would re-resurrected it again Tuesday morning and see what could be changed. He did in fact bring it again before the board and he changed his vote and walla, right back to the same thing it had been, 15,000 to 30,000. Makes you wonder just how intimidated he was.

Cudo's to Chairman Judge Johnson, he was very upset with the results of the re-vote. He made the statement that "this is suppose to be about the fish, the Kenai River King Salmon, not about money. Bingo!!!

One thing I keep hearing the commercial set net guys say is; "let ADF&G run this fishery with it biological science". Well I would say ok except; 1) they have been messing it up for decades, (in favor of commercial entities), and they seem to be even worst at it today than ever before and 2) I say ok, let it be run by sound biological science and data, however, I say let's use NOAA's biologist and EPA scientist findings and data. I don't believe that ADF&G issues their plans or EO's with sound biological data. I don't trust them nor do I believe them. I guess it is just plan ole common sense I'm using when I stand on K-Beach road and face ADF&G offices front door and then look at the door next to theirs and I see the largest commercial fishermen's association on the Kenai Peninsula not only next door, but in the same building. I have lived here for many decades and it has been well known that a large percentage of ADF&G employees have relations connected with commercial fishing. Go figure.

Now Kluberton is even talking about how set net fishermen should be allowed fishing time even if the Kenai River is closed to fishing for King Salmon. Crazy. If the in river fishery is closed, the set nets should be too. Heck we can let the drifters clean up the Reds like they did in 2012.

So I came up with this wild idea, remember, we are thinking of the King Salmon not the wallet, how about we close the Kenai River to the King Salmon sport fishing public, all commercial set nets until we have our minimum escapement goal. Like I said above, the drifters can take care of the Reds.

While I got you reading this, here is the last thing I want to put out there. I feel that if commercial set nets are fishing and sports fishing for Kings is going on in the Kenai, or if either one of them is fishing, then Alaskan Residents should be allowed to keep their ONE King Salmon with a dip net during the personal use fishery at the mouth. I'm talking about Alaskan Residents. They should come first every time period. Bob and Flo Miller from Sanford Florida can fly up here and step into a relatives boat or hire a guide and go on the river and kill a King. 75% of the people set netting are from out of state too and they kill more than their share. But the Alaskan Resident isn't allowed even one, forget it! I dip net every year and maybe once in 5 or 6yrs I get a king in my dip net so it does not happen that often. It's wrong to let non-residents kill our Kings and we can't even have one! Terrible!

kenai123 02/06/14 - 01:21 am
Alaska Board of Fisheries and financial conflict of interests

Regardless as to which way the Kenai River, king salmon escapement goals moves; at the end of the day the Alaska Board of Fisheries is the equivalent of a gigantic fireworks display, which leaves nothing but ashes floating down upon all the infatuated spectators.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries and our beloved ADF&G have demonstrated that they are not able to manage the king salmon here in Alaska. Take a look at our king salmon history, then view what we have today. With the numbers available today it does not take a lot of math to project that managers will not be able to reach their minimum king escapement goals across the state very soon. It is really already happening but do our fisheries managers note that this door is closing? Are they preparing for this great calamity? No, they are arm wrestling over someone getting $4,000 instead. Do you need proof? Instead of the board and staff preparing government and users for this great shut-down, they are still arguing over how to slice up the money pie. This is the same thing they did just before they shut-down the fish traps.

“250,000 sockeye? $2.5 million dollars? 600 set net permit holders? $4,000 a permit holder?" Instead of referencing the fact that as these kings drop off the radar, their gill net businesses "will be destroyed", they point to the $4,000 they might lose between now and then? Regardless as to who the users are "MONEY" is driving these kings off the radar and our historic managers are not capability of dealing with the politics and money involved. We need board of fish members that have zero financial conflict of interests. The public good is not served by having fisheries managers with "financial conflict of interests".

Suss 01/29/16 - 08:36 am


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