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Greed vs. conservation in king management

Posted: August 10, 2011 - 10:43am

In a recent letter to the Clarion, I expressed my disappointment in the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game's Kenai River king salmon management. As a long-time fishing guide, I admitted partial responsibility for our struggling king runs. I also put blame on every other user, including local, tourist, and commercial fisherman. But mostly, I pointed the finger at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the state entity that is charged with the responsibly of managing our resource to ensure sustainability of our salmon for future generations, something they have grossly failed to do.

This past week ADF&G not only proved this once again, they flippantly poured salt into the wounds of every person who cares about the future of these genetically unique Chinook. Exhibiting a shocking combination of arrogance and ineptitude, ADF&G issued Emergency Order #38, which opened the Upper Subdistrict Set Gillnet and Central District Drift Gillnet corridor, putting east-side set nets in the water for another 56 hours of continuous fishing.

This order boldly extended the setnet fishery outside provisions in the management plan, specifically the 1 percent rule trigger for closure.

ADF&G recently announced that for 2011, the low-end of the escapement goal for late run Kenai River King Salmon would not be achieved. According to Department publications, this will mark the fist time ever that this conservation goal for late run Kenai king will not "officially" be met. With Fish and Game's past sonar problems and previous "less than stellar" runs where exact numbers are called to question, this becomes an issue not to be taken lightly. Yet almost in the same breath that they announced a failed king escapement goal, Fish and Game went outside of the management plan and issued another EO that granted additional commercial fishing time, resulting in less kings entering the river.

According to ADF&G's own data, as of last Thursday, 6644 kings have been caught in the set net fishery. That compares to 6458 total in the sport fishery for the season. So the commercial catch already exceeds the sport catch, despite the management plan sport priority for kings. Now additional set net time killed another 200 plus a day. This discussion, and these numbers, might initially appear allocative until you consider ADF&G's own admission that the minimum in-river escapement goal will not be met. Now the issue is clearly conservation.

It is unfathomable to me and other responsible users of the resource that in the Department's eyes, the short term goal of trying to harvest a few more sockeye in the east-side set net fishery (in a banner year when over five million reds were taken by commercial fishermen) is a clear priority over conservation of wild Kenai kings.

So here is the real question for our Commissioner and our fishery managers -- how do you sleep at night knowing that your decisions and actions clearly tell us, the people of Alaska, that "greed trumps conservation" in fishery management?

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robert white
robert white 08/12/11 - 11:49 am

I would like to see a vote to the people, to reduce the number of guides.
Points 08/13/11 - 05:07 pm
dying kings

Real Alaska residents are being shut out of fishing. Non-resident commercial fishermen, with non-resident helpers are wiping out these fisheries.

The default cost of commercial fishing loans is insane.

Greed of commercial users is killing this "shared resource"

kenai-king 08/14/11 - 04:13 pm

I'm sure if you took a vote from the locals they would all be in favor of closing the King fishing for 5 years at least. But this will never happen with all the money greed, again I say all you guides will be gone with the last dollar and the last king!!!

kenai123 08/16/11 - 07:35 am
Disappointed in our Alaska Dept. of Fish

I am also disappointed in our Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game's Kenai River salmon management. My disappointment however stems from those who actually show up at last Alaska Board of Fish meeting which reviewed of our current Kenai River salmon management plans.
Basically only special interest groups show up at these three year cycle review meeting and that leaves the majority of Alaskan's not represented. For decades our ABF has been dominated by commercial gill netting interests because the public has better things to do when these meetings take place. The same can be said for our governor's selection of ABF members as he generally only hears from special interest groups when it comes time to select members. With this general lack of public input regarding board member selection, what is left is total commercial gill netting control of our fisheries management plans.
Commercial fishing only has one very simple goal and that goal is to gill net as many red salmon as possible.
That simple goal does not really consider the concept of us destroying our wild king or silver salmon runs. As long as there are at least a male and female left to spawn, the goal is valid within commercial thinking. This may sound like a pretty
bad way to manage a mix stock fishery but it is our current reality within Cook Inlet fisheries. If our half a million residents really cared about our salmon fisheries the largest building in any city would not contain them. Hallways, entries, exits and even all streets around the building would be blocked with people demanding to have their say. Instead a couple hundred commercial fishermen take two weeks out of their lifes every three years and persuade the ABF to do what they desire. These commercial fishermen desire one thing and that is to invest a dollar and get back many times that. It is all very cut and dried, money is the issue and consideration for other fish, marine mammals or even the public, is not really part of a commercial gill netting reality.
This reality does not appear likely to change soon, therefore I suggest a simple statewide vote to remove the gill net gear type from Cook Inlet. Non-selective commercial fishing gear types within Cook Inlet must be eliminated the same way non-selective sport fishing gear types were eliminated long ago. Sport fish snagging was legal for a short time before we realized its unintended negative consequences, UNC's to our environment. Once enough persons got involved snagging fish, it clearly became an uncontrollable gear type. It is simple, the UNC's to our environment were not worth the fishing efficiency increase.
We banned snagging because of the eventual damage it produces to both non-targeted fish and the environment.
Commercial fish gill netting was tolerated in the past within Cook Inlet because some people believed that not enough people were involved to make it an uncontrollable gear type. These people also assumed gill netting to not generate UNC's to our environment. Most of our general public today can clearly see that this is no longer the case. The public can now see that we are currently receiving large scale UNC's from the gill nets fishing within Cook Inlet's waters. The list of gill netting UNC's has been growing higher with each passing year. Within this year alone we have seen the UNC loss of our Kenai River, July run of giant king salmon along
with the loss of our first run of silver salmon. This list just keeps getting longer each year. Never before have we seen this kind of completed devastation to our wild fish stocks. We are also just now finding out that Cook Inlet's Beluga Whale's are being threatened. I have personally seen Beluga Whale's floating dead on the surface of Cook Inlet. Does anyone know what killed them? Does anyone care? No official is out there watching on or under the surface of Cook Inlet, so I guess it isn't really happening. The Cook Inlet Beluga problem is very simple and it ties in with everyone's elses Cook Inlet problems; calf Beluga Whales cannot survive gill nets.
Is that simple enough? Another UNC that our ADF&G just could not have seen coming. It is time for our Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game to finally realize that the non-selective screening of Cook Inlets waters with gill nets is as unacceptable as fresh water snagging. It is time for our ADF&G to do some actual research into different commercial gear types, which do not kill things that we don't want killed.
Our ADF&G is willing to spend millions of public dollars making sure that we don't incorrectly step on a blade of grass or upset a a stone or natural water way but it refuses to even address the wholesale gill net slaughter of an entire runs of wild salmon or all of our Beluga's. The main difference between these items is that the grass, water and whales don't seem to have a powerful commercial lobby in Alaska.
This commercial lobby makes its living by maximizing the harvest of a single dominate fish stock.The only reason non-selective commercial gill netting is still legal within Cook Inlet, is because of the love of money and not our environment.

fishbid 08/17/11 - 10:37 am
Where did the writer get the

Where did the writer get the figure of 6,458 kings taken in the sport fishery?
There is absolutly no tracking of the sport harvest except wild guesses, which usually serve an agenda. If the sport community is truly concerned about the resource they can start by calling for a accurate and honest reporting system for their share of the harvest.

akmscott 08/17/11 - 07:34 pm
The commercial pillagers are

The commercial pillagers are the ones who need to be controlled.Unfortunately the have bought every politician and wildlife officials for decades.This is what needs to be changed.

akmscott 08/17/11 - 07:36 pm


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