Many Alaskans are wondering what can or should be done to resolve the decline in king salmon within the Cook Inlet area. If you ask the Alaska Department of Fish and Game they will point to a snowstorm of data and graphs, which in the end leaves the viewer even more confused about our commercial by-catch problems. I have been reviewing our king loss data since 2002 and have come to a single conclusion. That conclusion is that many things may need to change within our commercial fisheries but key within those changes is that statewide we must stop all commercial fisheries from profiting “in any way” when they killing non-targeted species as by-catch. This means that commercial fisheries should be legally required to retain and process all by-catch and then donate it to a charity. This means that if you “by-catch kill” a beluga whale calf; you are forced to retain, process and donate it. If you by-catch kill a king salmon: you must retain, process and donate it.
By charity I mean some kind of food bank. This would prevent commercial fisheries from donating it to their favorite “commercial fisheries non-profit”. This change alone, over time would eventually resolve most of Alaska’s current by-catch problems. With this change commercial fisheries would eventually be forced to at least begin thinking about avoiding non-targeted “by-catch” species.
The king salmon by-catch issue is 100 percent about money; if you can make by-catch non-profitable, commercial fisheries will eventually find a way to prevent the financial drain. If we leave things the way they are we will be permanently losing many marine species and fisheries in the very near future.
As long as commercial fisheries are allowed to profit in any way from allowing by-catch, the by-catch issue will never go away and therefore all our Alaskan natural resources and fisheries will go on suffering forever.
The Alaskan general public must organize on this commercial fisheries by-catch issue and tightly focus on this single goal. That goal must be to remove all the profit from all commercial fisheries by-catch. The new reality in our fisheries future must be that commercial by-catch is going to cost you big. It really does not matter if it is a large fine or the charity donation, the Alaskan pubic needs to organize and do whatever it takes to begin the process of eventually holding commercial fisheries accountable for the marine destruction it is causing within our ocean. The wholesale slaughter of non-targeted species is no longer just acceptable losses. This mean that the Alaskan public must rise up and compel the Alaska Board of Fish and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. To take action and make substantial changes in the way all by-catch is processed by all of our commercial fisheries.
This is a very reasonable goal for the Alaskan public to pursue in resolving this very unreasonable waste of our common Alaskan natural resource heritage.