King salmon across the state of Alaska is in depletion as a whole. Southcentral Alaska is not the only region experiencing low king salmon return rates, it's happening all over.
It's easy to blame a single fishery, such as the central district commercial fisherman for the depletion of kings in the Kenai River. However, the escapement levels in most rivers across the state from the Yukon River to the Seatuck have still met their annual escapement goals, and the returns still remain drastically low.
The problem we're facing is much more complex then what the vast majority of people see. There is an environmental issue affecting the return rates of all king salmon across the state. Biologists from the Yukon and the Kuskokwim regions are facing the same adversities with very low return rates.
There are multiple different theories for the low numbers of king salmon, but there's not one fishery to blame for the misfortune at hand. Since the early 70s the commercial fishery has been on limited entry, and there has never been a growth in the fishery since those days. On the other side, their has been an explosion of guided sport anglers in Alaska's Southcentral rivers and saltwater fisheries.
The Board of Fish has yet to set a limit of guides on the rivers, and the activity on the spawning beds is abundant. With escalated traffic on the rivers it must be required for more areas to be set aside for spawning.
King salmon play a large role in the economy surrounding the commercial, subsistence and sport fisherman. To see future runs of king salmon the fishery needs to be managed biologically and the political aspects need to be set aside. Management needs to look outside the box to the environmental factors that are playing a strong roll in the decline of king salmon returning to their spawning grounds.