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What happened to our king salmon?

Posted: June 29, 2012 - 9:16am

Many Alaskans have figured out we have a shortage of king salmon in Southcentral Alaska. I have been writing articles for decades warning about the mismanagement of our king salmon stocks. Our valuable king salmon according to a state study are worth about 800-1,000 dollars per sport caught salmon to our economy. We made the king salmon our state fish, and we even sell a king salmon stamp to sport fishermen. Yet, to illustrate how we have treated this valuable fish: imagine using redwood trees for firewood.

Alaska has done a pretty good job in protecting the king salmon's habitat; we have done a terrible job in allowing adequate escapement into their spawning rivers. What was our great error? We have not properly controlled the commercial fisheries that have been allowed to overharvest king salmon as a by-catch in their various fishing operations. Yes, we have governmental agencies designated to protect our fisheries from over exploitation by various user groups. However, human greed is difficult to suppress, especially when special interest groups have access to large amounts of money to influence the fishery managers.

I saw King Salmon Judgement Day coming a few decades ago when the Cook Inlet Central District commercial fishery was allowed to fish continuously for weeks in July. I knew inadequate escapement was occurring on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers for king and silver salmon. But ADF&G either had no minimum escapement program for king and silver salmon or used a sonar counter that specialized in false readings. I noticed how the king salmon fry that swarmed around my legs when cleaning a salmon in the Kenai river disappeared in the 1990s.

The current early-run king salmon restrictions found throughout Cook Inlet streams due to low returns cannot be blamed upon the Cook Inlet Central District commercial fishery since they basically harvest late-run Kenai and Kasilof river king salmon. I learned back in the 1990s we were allowing the pollack trawler fishery to sustain huge by-catches of halibut, crab, and king salmon. The multibillion dollar pollack industry was allowed to kill more tons of halibut annually than the sport and commercial fisheries combined -- and they could not legally sell their by-catch! The pollack trawlers have killed millions of king salmon bound for Alaska rivers in the past few decades. Here are some recent pollack trawler by-catch numbers: in 2007 in the Bering Sea they killed 120,000 king salmon (have you noticed the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers' king salmon restrictions); in 2010 the trawler nets took 54,000 king salmon off of Kodiak (they have been harvesting numbers like this for decades). Have you noticed the federal government attempting to reduce bag limits for sport fishermen due to the lack of halibut (the trawler by-catch is the culprit)?

Alaskans who care about our king salmon fisheries and our economy need to contact their political representatives. We must demand adequate escapement for all salmon species; we must not continue to allow special interest user groups from destroying some fisheries for their financial gain.

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robert white
robert white 06/29/12 - 08:26 pm

to many years of 450 guides!!!!

radiokenai 07/06/12 - 07:26 am
Jim Johnson

Are you like stupid or what?

LET ME HELP YOU OUT...since your liberal pee-brain seems to be infected with spice.

As Robert White states...


SECOND: By your OWN COMMENT of DOLLARS AND is people such as yourself who have over-commercialized, over-advertised and over-exploited the river.

But no, it can't be your fault? So you blame global warming, you blame the commercial fisherman (who have fished these water WAY before your EXPLOITATION and COMMERCIALIZING of the Kenai River for YOUR profit.

The latest blame is what? "Shoreline Damage". Yea, that is it! Lets regulate private citizens along the HAS to be their fault!

Wake up Jimmy Boy...set the bong down....and use your brain for something other than to store THC....

radiokenai 07/06/12 - 07:33 am
Math Class for Jimmy Boy

Guides: 450+
People in Boat: 5
Times out on River per day: 2

So: 450 Guides X 10 Passengers (2 guides per day) = 4500 People Fishing Kings on a single day...

Not to mention Locals and Transits....

"Duh...Gee...Where'd All-em Kings Go Gomer?"

"I dunno Earl, em Commeshal Fishers musta gottem!"

kenai123 07/09/12 - 02:56 am
Are you insane kings?Call

Are you insane kings?
Call the ADF&G at 262 9368, ask someone who knows, if our king problem is saltwater or freshwater caused? I guarantee you they will inform you that since it is affecting all Cook Inlet rivers and streams, that it is a saltwater problem. You really need to get over this guide hatred. Guide numbers on the Kenai River have been on a very steep decline for years now. This is the results of a solid decade of unstable king runs. You need to get over this guide hate thing, our king runs are not static, they are declining big time. Our guide numbers are also not static, they are also declining. The loss of our kings has been studied by the ADF&G and it has been determined to be a Cook Inlet wide problem. We are seeing massive king losses on rivers and streams with and without guides, with and without any amount of anglers. This has been proved over and over to be a saltwater problem. It is not rod & reel fishing pressure, it's not river bank trampling, it's not boats or boat wakes, it's not any public issue that you can "guide hate" dream up. Our king declines are happening on rivers and streams without large numbers of anglers or guides. Are you starting to get it yet?

Managing king salmon stocks on the Kenai River is not a job for the faint hearted. From 1980 to 1990 our Kenai River king runs were much more predictable than today. The main reason these runs were more predicable then is because there were less humans attempting to intercept them back then. King salmon commercial by-catch issues back then were at a minimum as Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak and Cook Inlet commercial fisheries intercept factors were very low. By 1990 those commercial intercept factors began taking huge bites out of Alaska's extremely strong king runs. Commercial fisheries which had only been by-catching a few thousand kings annually suddenly exploded and began intercepting hundreds of thousands of these kings between 1980 and 2000. Kodiak Island and Cook Inlet commercial fisheries basically sell their king by-catch and Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska commercial fisheries kill their kings and throw them away dead back into the ocean. These Bering Sea and Gulf kings must be dumped dead because it is illegal to sell them. All of this basically comes down to hundreds of thousands of kings being annually removed from Alaska's saltwater before they have a chance to return and spawn within their home rivers and streams. Year after year of this ocean shredding of our king resource has had a tremendous cumulative effect thus resulting in the general suppression of all Cook Inlet king stocks. It was in 2002 that these commercial by-catch factors first began having an effect on the Kenai River sportfish environment That effect showed up as both first and second king runs began showing up late along with a size reduction. At first we notice these runs only showing up a few days later than normal. Eventually the few days turned into weeks as our "second run king arrival" moved from the first week of July to the second and then even sometimes on into the third week. Occasionally our second run of kings would show up in the first or second week of July but in general the run had been destabilized and was very unpredictable by 2002.

Currently we are forced to expect our late run of kings to show up at just about anytime between July 1st - 25th. This run instability did not need to happen; it is the direct result of run-away commercial saltwater by-catch factors These by-catch factors were also first notice by fisheries managers in 2002 but few of them could convince themselves that our saltwater commercial fisheries were capable of such dramatic and far reaching run changes. Today we have modern fisheries managers who are "still unaware" of the history behind this delayed July king entry pattern on the Kenai River. These managers basically take a short-term view of this situation and interpret this wildly fluctuating entry pattern as some kind of recent event. Because these managers assume a freshwater king problem, they attempt to resolve the problem with only freshwater solutions. These chosen freshwater solutions are usually only freshwater sportfish restrictions. These fisheries managers are incorrectly applying freshwater fisheries solutions to a saltwater problem. This improper assessment / solution format then basically results in a delayed reaction to
actually resolving the source saltwater problem. This incorrect problem solving can be compared to placing a bandage on cancer and somehow expecting the problem to go away. Using freshwater solutions to remedy saltwater problems creates even more problems as fisheries managers are lulled into a false sense of security, while they stop looking for real solutions. The end result of following this kind of a false logic and problem solving, is that everyone stands around for years waiting for saltwater slaughtered kings to return to the freshwater. If a person desires evidence of what is happening here they need only view the results of decades worth's of king salmon freshwater restrictions on anglers
in the Cook Inlet area. All of these extensive freshwater restrictions have resulted in fewer and fewer kings returning to Cook Inlet.

At this time Kenai River king salmon stocks require a fisheries manager with an extremely cool hand. The realization that our Cook Inlet king troubles ARE NOT
freshwater based must dominate the solution debate and resulting regulatory changes. Most of our proposed king salmon, freshwater regulatory changes should be
viewed for what they actually are, superficial camouflage for a much deeper rooted problem within the saltwater. It is not rational to continue assuming that short-term freshwater regulatory solutions will in anyway address this long-term saltwater king salmon problem.

Would you like ocean by-catch of king salmon to END? Sign the Petition.

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