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All users benefit from healthy salmon returns

Posted: May 5, 2013 - 3:49pm

Recently, the executive director of Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA), a 501c3 nonprofit organization “dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of the world’s premier sportsfishing river” wrote an editorial in which he appropriately gave his organization credit for leading the successful charge to block the legislative confirmation of Vince Webster to the Alaska Board of Fisheries. In a swift and organized character assassination, KRSA spread false and misleading information vilifying Mr. Webster. In their attack, they blamed Mr. Webster for (among other things) the Board of Fish’s unanimous 7-0 decision to codify the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADFG’s) new scientifically established and defensible escapement goal for Kenai River Late Run Kings, something that Board of Fish Chair Karl Johnston stated was a “necessity.” While KRSA claims that their “educational” activities against Mr. Webster were “fact-based and truthful,” many disagree. In fact, even Governor Parnell stated that “It is disappointing, discouraging, and disheartening when bad information or politics prevent a qualified Alaskan from serving our state.”

As a third generation Alaskan and fishermen, I am proud of Alaska’s fisheries and feel that the success of our fisheries benefits everyone. Recent poor returns of king salmon have been a statewide issue, and have affected many of us greatly. As a Cook Inlet setnetter and member of a community that depends on a diverse and healthy fishery, I can honestly say that many of my friends, family and neighbors were among some of the hardest hit. After a devastating season, it was very encouraging to get a chance to participate in the public process of the Upper Cook Inlet King Salmon task force, led by Board of Fish members Mr. Webster and Mr. Kluberton. It was through this task force that new and enlightening data was published by ADFG that shaped the discussion of Kenai River Late Run Kings.

While KRSA did manage to suggest a conspiracy between ADFG and the relatively small and politically disorganized group of Cook Inlet East Side setnetters, they left out some very important facts released in these new department reports. First, a historic run reconstruction of Kenai River Late Run Kings using independent and historically accurate data showed that we have exceeded current escapement goals for these fish 15 of the last 26 years. ADFG indicated in a recent report to the Board of Fish that current below average Kenai Late Run King returns are likely a product of low ocean productivity combined with past years of chronic and substantial overescapement.

ADFG data also indicates that this stock shows no signs of overharvest. According to biologists, the relatively low total combined exploitation rate of Kenai River Late Run Kings (39 percent) means it would be quite difficult to endanger this stock by overharvest, even on a year of low return. New genetic testing shows that Cook Inlet East Side setnets only harvest 13 percent of the total Kenai River Late Run King return. Additionally, most biologists agree that the only risk this new goal carries is a certain amount of risk to future yield if ADFG is wrong. Fortunately, all of the data we do have both from this river and others support ADFG’s conclusions and shows that in most Alaskan rivers, king salmon are quite productive at low escapement levels, and substantially less productive at high escapement levels. If this new Kenai Late Run King escapement goal provides more fishing opportunity, it will provide more opportunity for all user groups. If it results in less king salmon abundance, we will all suffer. As Alaskans it doesn’t matter whether we fish for sport, personal use, commercially, or not at all — we’re all in this together.

All available data shows that despite current below average returns, the Kenai River Late Run King stock is still quite healthy and productive. In fact, they are much healthier than the Kenai River in which they spend the most sensitive and important years of their life. KRSA has been busy. They have created a ruckus over ADFG’s scientifically defensible escapement goal. They continue pursuing their founding member’s lifelong goal of promoting an ever-increasing sport fishery and eliminating Cook Inlet setnets. During the last Cook Inlet Board of Fish meeting, the board considered 14 proposals submitted by Kenai River Sportfishing Association — 8 proposals to increase bag limits on either cohos or kings, 3 proposals to increase escapement goals in our already overcrowded rivers, and 3 proposals to increase sportfishing opportunity and further limit commercial fishing opportunity. Interesting that an organization that prides itself for promoting sustainability spent none of its considerable resources drafting proposals to address any of the numerous glaring habitat issues on the river it considers home.

While the Cook Inlet “fish wars” wage on, sportfishing participation, commercial guided activity, and powerboat traffic have all been allowed to grow completely unabated in our river. The Kenai exceeds EPA pollution standards for turbidity caused by powerboats in much of our vital King habitat area. Millions of pounds of unprocessed fish waste and dangerous levels of fecal coliform choke our river mouth. Belugas and harbor seals that once occupied the intertidal area to feed on sockeye have all but vanished, likely due to traffic and pollution from the inriver fisheries. Low king returns have spurred an increase in sport and guided sockeye shore fishing which has had significant impacts on our riverbanks — the most vital king salmon habitat in our river. Despite the fact that Kenai salmon management plans require it, we have no current data to assess the extent of the negative impacts this fishing pressure has had on riparian habitat. Commercial development along vital stretches of riverbank continues despite the known negative effects. Last year, inriver fisheries were opened 24 hours a day despite residents’ complaints of noise, pollution, and bank erosion due to boat wakes.

Fishermen and residents of our community are left wondering when enough is enough. Surely a healthy river needs some healthy limits, and creative solutions are badly needed. Unfortunately, the organization “dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of the world’s premier sportsfishing river” is too busy trying to destroy the setnetters and dominate statewide fisheries policy to address these issues.

Todd Smith is a third-generation Alaskan, sport, personal-use, and commercial fisherman.

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spwright
1376
Points
spwright 05/06/13 - 01:12 pm
0
3
eating their own

The Fish Wars. All User Groups devote All of their Time & Energy & $Money$ to BackStabbing & assigning Blame.

Just like our U S Congress both Republican & Democrats with the Lowest Approval Ratining the entire History of Congrees.

Our Local Fishermen are Eating Their Own & Ripping each other apart constantly.

No Compromise, No Agreement, NOTHING is Accomplished.

Generation after Generation of Fishermen continue to Hate & Blame.

SPW

AK1950
36
Points
AK1950 05/06/13 - 04:05 pm
1
1
Great article! In-river

Great article! In-river degradation is the biggest threat to Kenai Kings, and there is little discussion about remediation of these problems. Turbidity, overuse, bankside erosion due to wakes, 35 years of constantly dragging treble hooks through spawning beds... These are the real issues. Interception, whether offshore in the Trawl Fleet or nearshore in the Set Net fleet plays a minor role in comparison. Where is the political will to address the real issues?

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 05/06/13 - 08:18 pm
3
1
just some simple facts...then some opinion

According to the ADFG's numbers, from 1986 to 2012, the east side set netters have taken 200,303 kings and the in-river sport fishery have taken 319,568. This is an average per year of 7,703 and 12,291 respectively. This is an average of 86% of the total of all kings harvested in this time period. Sport fishing lends itself to selective harvest restrictions while gill nets are not and cannot be selective. Mr. Smith, and his counterparts at KSRA play politics and do an equally disturbing job of spread false and misleading information vilifying each other...there is no winner, I would say we have a tie. If you dissect Mr. Smith's opinion piece closely, you will see that he is doing what my grandmother called talking out of both sides of his mouth. We all have been force fed plenty of that the last 6 years with our lovely politicians. Mr. Smith states that the most recent and wonderful information shows we don't any problem with king abundance on the Kenai, in fact, we had a number of years where we got too much escapement and that is a prime suspect for where we are now. Then, he says the river is in dire straits and something needs to be done. Well, back when the river was even more crowded we had over escapement and we still had boats on the rivers and people fishing sockeye, tromping around on the banks. You know what I want, I want someone, anyone to come out from either group and just be honest...I know, way too much to ask. Those of us that are not set netters and do not fish the kings in river are the one's getting the shaft here.

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 05/06/13 - 09:56 pm
0
0
Make up your mind

In point of fact sir, gillnets are somewhat selective. Since ESSN's fish Sockeye gear, these nets selectively harvest the younger, smaller kings that inriver users largely selectively don't harvest. This results in a broader harvest along the age range of fish. Score one for a diverse fishery.

Funny that you began your comment by stating ADFG data, and then said Mr. Smith was 'talking out of both sides of his mouth' when he did the same. Funny that you would compare the factual opinion of one individual and equate it to be the same as decades and millions of dollars of effort and propaganda on the part of a dishonest, well funded, and politically connected organization. I wouldn't exactly call that a tie.

You qouted ADFG data, and then called it 'the most recent and wonderful information' as if you don't believe it. You can believe the data or not, but citing ADFG scientific data in proper context is neither false nor misleading.

cormit
226
Points
cormit 05/07/13 - 07:15 am
1
0
selective harvest restrictions

"Sport fishing lends itself to selective harvest restrictions while gill nets are not and cannot be selective."

Kapco ..... not quite sure what you mean here. Does this refer to the fact that a net can't selectively target any specific age class of kings while sport fish can selectively target just the big ones? Do you think targeting just the big ones is somehow a good thing? Are you aware that there aren't any big ones left?

Or, maybe what you mean is ...... during times of low abundance ...... "selective harvest restrictions" means gear out of the water for a set netter ..... but only hook and release for a sport fisherman?

borninak
655
Points
borninak 05/07/13 - 07:36 am
2
0
Kapco Be Honest

Well stated Roger104. If Kapco was honest, he would simply state up front he inherently hates setnetters, as evidenced by every post he makes. He accuses everyone of playing politics, but then he spins ADF&G data as if it becomes lies when referenced by a setnetter. I thought Mr. Smith's article was fair, factual, and interesting. The fact is, we ALL will benefit from a healthy salmon run and we ALL lose when its weak.

pengy
250
Points
pengy 05/07/13 - 08:27 am
1
0
Oxymoron?

Per Tim Smith, " below average late run Kenai Kings are likely a product of low ocean productivity combined with past years of chronic and substantial overescapement."

How does this happen? If there aren't many in the ocean how can too many make it in the river?

I'm sticking with the professionals on this matter and not with the people who have a dog in the hunt (KRSA, ESSN, etc.). Tom Vania of ADF&G has stated that the king decline is in the ocean, and finding what that is is open to debate. Pretty simple, if only the Kenai was having king problems than you could point to inriver issues. But, when the king decline is statewide it's pretty hard to point to freshwater issues as the main culprit.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 05/07/13 - 09:26 am
0
0
No spin, no hate

I am in no way spinning any data. The data is the data and Mr. Smith has done a good job in pointing it out. If that data is correct then there is no king problem and we need not fret about it or anticipate any restrictions for any fishery this year as we saw in 2012. That being said, there is quite a bit of talk about very bad king runs throughout the state and I think the governor putting some money behind studying it...I guess I am glad the numbers show the Kenai is fairing better than most places in the state. And, my facts are accurate, the numbers I posted are the numbers...it seems the participants need to have the numbers put in front of them because they tend to minimize their own impacts and maximize "the other guys" impacts to suit their argument. And the simple fact is, a gill net cannot pick and choose what species it kills and the fact that 7,000 plus kings per year are taken on "sockeye" gear as Roger104 points out, proves that. The fishermen themselves are good enough at what they do that they know ways they can reduce harvest of kings and they should do so without being regulated to do so. And, sport fishing does lend itself to selective gear and selective harvest in terms of size by way of slot limits. The river guides and locals that fish a lot are good enough fishermen that they know ways to reduce their impact on the spawning beds ak1950 mentions and they too should take those measures without being regulated to do so. borninak, no, I do not hate set netters, I know a couple personally and they are pretty cool people. I do not begrudge them making a living just as I do not begrudge the river guides making a living. Based on what we saw at the task force meeting, I feel like each group and the
individuals in them, need constant reminder to look themselves in the mirror and check themselves on their honesty in their motives. The best part of Mr. Smith's article is the title...all user groups do benefit from healthy salmon returns. By the way, pengy hit the nail on the head with his/her comment.

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 05/07/13 - 10:43 am
0
1
Harvest is a good thing!

Kapco,

Your whole argument is based on the premise that King harvest is a bad thing. The ADFG data that you quoted shows that this stock is not overharvested. In fact, as Mr. Smith said, it suggests that past overescapement could be a factor in current low returns. Perhaps this stock has been underharvested in the past! Harvest is not the same as fishing pressure.

Sustainable harvest of our salmon stocks is in the best interest of all Alaskans. ESSN permits are salmon permits, not Sockeye permits. The harvest of kings is traditional, sustainable, and beneficial to both this industry and our community, and requires no boats or boots in our river.

Per Pengy's comments, you may need to speak to a biologist about how fish runs work. Just because there aren't large returns now doesn't mean that there weren't large returns in years past.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 05/07/13 - 10:53 am
1
0
let's follow the overescapement logic...

I am by no means saying that harvest is a bad thing...you are reading that into what I said yourself. My whole argument is based on assuming there is low abundance. Apparently, and I don't mean that sarcastically, the powers that be have come to the conclusion that there is no abundance problem...that's great, I'd like the opportunity to harvest the 3-4 kings my family takes each year just like the next guy. If you follow the line of logic that over escapement in the rivers is a seemingly large factor in low king returns then the entire argument on the sport side that set nets take too many fish is blown out of the water just as the argument that Mr. Smith (and others) make about over crowding on the river is equally blown out of the water. If there was over escapement in the river say, 5 years ago that has led, at least in part to where we are now then should we not of raised in river limits and liberalized? And, if you follow that logic maybe more degradation of the river, that ak1950 points out, would be a positive method of reducing the escapement to tolerable levels. That same logic might lead one to say that knowingly fishing the set nets hard in times of low sockeye abundance is a good thing so that kings can be harvested under the premise of reducing the escapement in the river. Trust me, I want to fish for and harvest kings. There is something that just does not set well with the logic described above...I think most people would see that.

kenai123
1312
Points
kenai123 05/09/13 - 05:13 pm
2
2
commercial fisheries money addiction.

Well Todd, for your information the KRSA was and still is correct regarding Mr. Webster. Webster completely manipulated the King Salmon Task Force meetings and if you and your set net buddies have your way our Cook Inlet east side set nets will be showing on paper that they are actually helping our kings. These set nets have been claiming for 30 years to be only killing 75% of our Kenai kings in 1979, to 70% in 1983, to 65% in 1987, to 50% 1993, to 35% in 1999, to 25% in 2001, to 20% 2008, to 17% in 2010 and now to 13% in 2013.
All the data regarding the king catch of these nets is suspect. All of the persons involved with this fishery are suspect and questionable. Most of what this fishery does with regard to kings is hidden or covered up. Most of the information I have seen coming from the ADF&G regarding this fishery is distorted and smeared into smoke and mirrors so that the public has little to no idea how it really operates or impacts Kenai River kings. With that said you expect the public to just believe whatever warped information shot out into the public over the newspaper or web? All of your thousands of words in this story are meaningless. Regarding the KRSA, the KRSA made the correct call on Webster, he needed to go, much like many of the special interest problem members currently on our Board of Fish. The KRSA is dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of our kings, our set netters are only dedicated to making as much money as possible selling fish.

Oh and Todd, you are not a sport or personal-use fisherman, you are in fact only a commercial set net fisherman who will attempt to continue catching, killing and selling as many salmon as you can, for as long as the law will allow you to do so. Once you sell your first fish to that first customer you have crossed a magical line. A transformation happens after you catch and sell fish. After that you magically transform into a person who can no longer be satisfied by the thrill of hooking into and landing a single fish. You acquire the fish cash fever, which is much like gold fever. That fever infects your mind, eventually makes you fish crazy and willing to sell your best friends, relatives and natural resources down any drain just as long as you can catch and sell just one more fish. Logic or reason takes a backseat as you favor every word out of your mouth to somehow allow you to acquire that next fish. Catching and selling fish can become an addiction much like alcohol or drugs. I suggest that you go get a little fisheries rehab rather than trying to convince us that the east side set nets do not catch our Kenai River kings. These nets are slaughtering our Kenai kings, they need to be closed down, unless they can find a way to stop by-catching our kings. I do not expect you to be involved in finding a way for set nets to stop killing kings because you are addicted to the money which flows from the selling of our fisheries heritage to appease your commercial fisheries money addiction.

beaverlooper
2794
Points
beaverlooper 05/10/13 - 10:43 am
1
0
fish crazy and willing to sell your best friends, relatives and

I am not a commercial fisherman in any form, just some one who likes to fish and a couple things 123 said interested me.
"Once you sell your first fish (OR GUIDED FISHING TRIP)to that first customer you have crossed a magical line." You acquire the fish cash fever, which is much like gold fever. That fever infects your mind, eventually makes you fish crazy and willing to sell your best friends, relatives and natural resources down any drain just as long as you can catch and sell just one more fish(OR GUIDED FISHING TRIP). Logic or reason takes a backseat as you favor every word out of your mouth to somehow allow you to acquire that next fish(OR GUIDED FISHING TRIP). Catching and selling fish can become an addiction much like alcohol or drugs."" I do not expect you to be involved in finding a way for set nets (OR GUIDES)to stop killing kings because you are addicted to the money which flows from the selling of our fisheries heritage to appease your commercial fisheries money addiction."
123 You are a guide,you are a commercial fisherman, you are no different in this addiction.
I find it interesting that guides say it's the trawlers in the big water that are the ones decimating the kings but he first people they always go after are the set netters and and all those boats in the river ,some right on spawning beds , NEVER damage the fishery .I think you guides have lied to yourselves and each other so much you have lost touch with reality and actually believe that you play absolutely no part in the problem.
"All of the persons involved with this fishery are suspect and questionable. Most of what this fishery does with regard to kings is hidden or covered up." That's the pot calling the kettle black. Pitiful
One more thing "These set nets have been claiming for 30 years to be only killing 75% of our Kenai kings in 1979, to 70% in 1983, to 65% in 1987, to 50% 1993, to 35% in 1999, to 25% in 2001, to 20% 2008, to 17% in 2010 and now to 13% in 2013." How many guides were there in 1979,how many more in1983,how many more in 1987,etc? Of course as guides caught more and more fish the percentage of fish the set netters took went down because the percentage the guides took went up.
Mark Twain said " there are lies, there are damn lies and there are statistics."
I just like to fish ,and I'm tired of being "sold down the drain".

smithtb
240
Points
smithtb 05/10/13 - 01:08 pm
1
2
COOCOO FOR COCOA PUFFS

"Once you sell your first fish to that first customer you have crossed a magical line. A transformation happens after you catch and sell fish. After that you magically transform into a person who can no longer be satisfied by the thrill of hooking into and landing a single fish. You acquire the fish cash fever, which is much like gold fever. That fever infects your mind, eventually makes you fish crazy and willing to sell your best friends, relatives and natural resources down any drain just as long as you can catch and sell just one more fish."

Wow. Do you even realize how many hard working Alaskans you just villified?

As for killing as many fish as I can.... GUILTY AS CHARGED!!!!

You, sir, have no idea what I am or am not, although it's pretty clear to all of us that you are insane.

kenai123
1312
Points
kenai123 05/10/13 - 01:53 pm
2
1
fish cash fever? vilification for a pay check.

There are a great many persons in this nation which preform vital functions within our economy. Some are plain jobs which when conducted cause simple straight forward action reactions. Other jobs are controversial primarily because when conducted they cause unexpected and negative reactions. A nuclear power plant job would be one of these jobs. The worker may be very skilled, very diligent and the power may even be very necessary but many people are still outraged by by the fact that this job enriches some people lives while endanger others. Some anti-nuclear people do vilify nuclear people but it is a natural vilification. Nuclear people are clearly dumping their job trash on top of anti-nuclear people and therefore the anti-nuclear people don't like it, so they vilify them.

It is a fact that commercial fishing also dumps its job trash on persons not involved in commercial fishing. Commercial by-catch is this job trash and non-commercial fishermen naturally do not like being held responsible for commercial fisheries fall-out. Commercial fisheries could use gear types which do not produce this fisheries fall-out but they deliberately choose to not use gear types which would prevent by-catch. This commercial fisheries choice therefore shows that the industry does not care that much about the by-catch, the fall-out or the vilification which results. It is the same as a nuclear worker going to work each day knowing full well that what they are doing for a living could negatively impact their neighbors but they still go to work and accept the vilification in exchange for a pay check. In the same way commercial fishing has clearly accepted vilification for a pay check.

kenai123
1312
Points
kenai123 05/10/13 - 02:12 pm
1
1
beaverlooper - GUIDED FISHING TRIPS

GUIDED FISHING TRIPS are conducted by common users and not limited entry users. Common users are constitutionally guaranteed fisheries access on surplus resources, limited entry users are not. Limited entry users traded guaranteed fisheries access for the chance of receiving more fish in 1973. Most of the time limited entry has paid off big for commercial fishing but during times of resource depletion they will suffer because they have volunteered to place common users before themselves. Guided fishing common user access is constitutionally guaranteed, our constitution does not guarantee limited entry user access. This is why commercial fisheries / common user fisheries parity is completely illegal.

beaverlooper
2794
Points
beaverlooper 05/10/13 - 05:07 pm
2
0
@smithtb

I didn't say that, it was a quote from kenai123 in the opinion above mine,if you were quoting me you also would have put in the parts that were in (xxxxx) . When I do this "xxxxx" it means that I'm repeating what someone else said in case you don't know what a quote is.
I was just trying to point out that the things he was saying about the salt water commercial fishery applied equally to the fresh water commercial fishery.
123 .I don't know if you were here when the saltwater commercial fishermen (I know you weren't a guide there weren't any on the river)went to limited entry but it was the same reason the freshwater commercial fishermen should have done it years ago,there were getting to be TO DAMN MANY of them.
Again you talk about by catch,you are talking about trawlers and vilifying set netters. Kings are not by catch for set netters it is as legal for them to catch a king as it is for Joe fisherman. Change gear type? The only way they could do that is to use traps instead of gill nets (amend ordinance #3 of the constitution)and then they could let all of the kings go.
"Common users are constitutionally guaranteed fisheries access on surplus resources, limited entry users are not."(See smithtb that is a quote) please define common user in this context and where it says that in the constitution,not saying that it doesn't I'd just like to see it myself.
Kenai river guide= nuclear power plant worker. Thanks 123 a guy needs at least one good belly laugh a day.

Kapco
148
Points
Kapco 05/10/13 - 06:30 pm
3
0
listen guys...

You know what the bottom line is, the set netters should make an effort to reduce the amount of kings they catch with or without a regulatory requirement. There should be a cap on how many kings they can take--once that cap is reached, their fishing time should be reduced. At the same time, there should be further restrictions on how many, where and when guides can/should fish the river. The netters and the guides both know what they could do if they were truly honest and wanted to do the right things by way of the kings. This should all be done locally and through the state before these fish get listed by the feds...I think everyone will be very sorry when/if that happens.

beaverlooper
2794
Points
beaverlooper 05/10/13 - 07:12 pm
2
0
thank you

thank you kapco,well said.

smithtb
240
Points
smithtb 05/10/13 - 09:22 pm
1
0
Beaverlooper, I was talking

Beaverlooper, I was talking to Kenai123, not you. Sorry for the confusion. I do not think you are insane.

Kapco, when there is a lack of abundance, everyone must reduce harvest. Everyone has.

In times of abundance, its important to remember that ESSN King harvest is traditional, legal, profitable, environmentally healthy, and only 13% of the total run. Diversity in harvest is not a bad thing.

Mommy said we're 'posta share.

beaverlooper
2794
Points
beaverlooper 05/10/13 - 10:17 pm
1
0
In that case smithtb, I owe

In that case smithtb, I owe you an apology for being a smart ass in my response .I'm sorry

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