Fishery decisions must be made for ecosystem's benefit

The “Kenai River Classic” and the guiding sector have decimated the early Kenai River king salmon run. The “Kenai Classic” has been used to push the guides’ economic agenda to the detriment of the Kenai River kings, recreational users, local populous and ecosystem of our local river. The “Kenai Classic” targets the early run kings that enter the Kenai River during May and June. However, these early kings do not spawn until sometime in July. As a result, these kings are caught and released several times, or are overharvested at an unacceptable high rate that is not sustainable. Our early run Kenai kings have not met the escapement goal for several years and could be declared a “Stock of Conservation Concern.” The “Kenai Classic” has been a questionable success at a devastating cost to our local area people, Kenai kings and the Kenai River ecosystem. It is ironic that with the high percentage of Alaskan users, we sacrifice our local kings in order to have the “Kenai Classic” so the guiding sector can pander to politicians and government bureaucrats. How many out-of-state guides have an influence in the decisions being made about our Kenai River system and our Kenai River kings?

For several years, the Mat-Su Valley has had at least one person on the Board of Fish. Why is this? The stacking of the Board for the guide industry has insulated them from any scrutiny as to why our early and late-run king salmon have disappeared. Recently, a guide industry spokesman blamed the weather along with some other “fishermen” somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean for the problem. It’s interesting that the spokesperson had plenty of blame for everyone else, but never once mentioned their role in the disappearance of our kings. Amazingly, there was not one in-river problem mentioned. However, lots of other industries seemed to be causing problems for the kings: logging, mining, commercial fishing or the oil industry, but not the commercial guide industry. The guides and “Kenai Classic” participants use gasoline engines and they lose lead sinkers, plastic lures and plastic lines into the ecosystem as several hundred boats per day churn up the pathway to the kings’ spawning grounds. Don’t forget catch-and-release and slot limits. Has anyone even thought about the fishermen and women with raingear, boots and waders from all over the world that may carry an invasive species? Our late, great Senator Ted Stevens helped to create a fish conservation plan called the Magnuson-Stevens Act which was passed by Congress to protect and sustain our nation’s fisheries for current and future generations. However, we are following the path of the Pacific Northwest salmon fisheries and unless we make a few adjustments, this could be the end of our Kenai kings, local commercial fishermen and local sport fishermen. My hope is the decisions are based more for the good of the river ecosystems. The tourism industry is good for the State of Alaska, but to the detriment of our ecological jewels.

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