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Time to speak up on fish stocking plans

Posted: December 22, 2012 - 8:06pm  |  Updated: December 24, 2012 - 8:53am

The middle of winter seems like a strange time to discuss king salmon management. However, nothing could be farther than the truth.

With Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s recent announcement that the Division of Sport Fish is now accepting public comment on its statewide fish-stocking plan, now is the time.

Every angler, resident or visitor, as well as every local business owner, should voice his or her opinion. Our kings are absolutely vital to our economy and it’s no secret that last year’s chinook returns to the Kenai Peninsula were alarmingly low. ADF&G cites the curious feel-good euphemism “a period of low abundance” but that tells us little about why our early runs are weak. Call it what you want and use whatever scape-goat is handy, but the bottom line is that there are many reasons that less kings than ever returned to our area, including the fact that ADF&G has been cutting (and in some cases completely dropping) our chinook smolt numbers for years.

The Kasilof River is a perfect example. When I first moved here, a little more than two decades ago, over 400,000 king smolt where released in Crooked Creek. A few years later, that number was dropped to approximately 200,000, then about 100,000, followed by 80-60,000 the last few years. Did you know that NO chinook hatchery smolt will be released in 2013? No wonder the Kasilof River, and the Deep Creek marine fishery, are but a shadow of their former glory. It’s also a big part of why our July fisheries are so crowded; we’ve virtually lost our early runs and thus angler effort balloons into the late-run. It should be no surprise to the department why angler sales are down.

Warning: if and when ADF&G comes up with a cop-out excuse, don’t automatically buy into it. Straying, hatchery hot-water availability, imprinting practices, and funding have all been addressed. The bottom line: there is no good reason not to supplement this early run with reasonable numbers of king smolt, provided good sound hatchery practices are employed and hatchery fish are not placed on top of truly wild runs (which by the way, the bastardized “naturally produced” early run Kasilof kings are not).

It’s simply a matter of most bang-for-our-buck. Would you rather have a plane full of hatchery kokannee dropped in a remote, difficult to access lake, or do you think that we would all be better served by returning the most popular roadside king fishery in the state to where it once was?

Comments may be sent to Diane Loopstra in Anchorage at 907-269-0294, or e-mailed to Comments may also be mailed to Diane Loopstra, William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery, 941 N. Reeve Blvd., Anchorage, AK, 99501.

The deadline for comment is Jan. 15, 2013.

Please voice your thoughts now! Our once great fisheries need your support!

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kenai123 01/02/13 - 10:31 pm
Releasing king smolt into the Kasilof River?

Why push to release king smolt into the Kasilof River when they will just be shredded by commercial fisheries by-catch?

Why have the bulk of commercial fishermen and fish processors moved from operating on West Coast waters to the Northwest waters of Alaska? The short response is that these commercial fishermen decimated West Coast fisheries and then move on to do the same to Northwest fisheries. These are the same commercial fishermen who claim that they are involved within "Sustainable Fisheries". The fact that these same fishermen destroyed our West Coast fisheries and then later moved their operations to Alaska waters, clearly demonstrates that what they do is not sustainable. Therefore there are zero commercial fisheries who can actually claim they fish within sustainable fisheries. If these commercial fisheries were actually sustainable, these fishermen and processors WOULD STILL be fishing West Coast waters instead of Alaskan waters. The reason these commercial fishermen and processors are not still fishing down south anymore is because they destroyed our magnificent West Coast fisheries natural resources while making themselves into millionaires. Commercial fisheries may not have wiped-out every last fish within these fisheries but when we compare what we have now to what we use to have on the West Coast, the fisheries are basically wiped-out. This is why these commercial fishermen then moved to Alaska waters.

What is your definition of natural resource abuse? Most people feel that when you destroy or waste a natural resource, that is resource abuse. Well this is what commercial fisheries specialize in doing, they specialize in destroying or wasting, they just call it "harvest" and "by-catch". These words games are used to make the public believe that commercial fisheries are not destroying or wasting fisheries resources. The new correct definition of commercial fisheries is basically a commercial force which takes public fisheries resources and converts them into their own private bank account. Once the private bank account is full and the public fishery destroyed, commercial fisheries then move on to the next big bonanza fishing ground, if there is one left out there somewhere.

The reason the term "Sustainable Commercial Fishery" is currently allowed within this destructive process, is because the fisheries involved have not completely collapsed YET. Some commercial fisheries collapse immediately, some take decades to finally collapse but in the end they all eventually collapse because NONE are truly sustainable. The allusion of "commercial fisheries sustainability" comes from a magnificent smoke and mirrors game of numbers between commercial fisheries and our ADF&G. While commercial fisheries are busy using their right hand to getting you to stare at fish escapement numbers, their left hand is busy annihilating all the fish out in the ocean. The bottom line is that commercial fishermen become millionaires, the fish are wiped-out and the public is left mystified as to where their fishery went? This is what happened on the U. S. West Coast. These same commercial fishermen have now moved onto Alaska waters and are now busy waving their hands at whatever will distract the public, while they are busy annihilating our salmon and halibut out on the ocean. Their bank accounts grow larger and larger and when the music stops, poof! our fisheries are gone. There is nothing sustainable about commercial fishing, it is just a matter of time before they annihilate a fishery and move on.

Do you actually believe that it is possible to release enough king smolt into Crooked Creek that these commercial forces and bank accounts could be satisfied? So we dump a million king smolt into Crooked Creek, how many do you think will make it back to attempt to spawn? 1%, 2%? What if it is 10% would that justify the expense of raising and releasing a million king smolt? So where are the other 90% going? That is the real question which nobody wants to try to answer. They won't try to answer the question because they either don't know or DON'T WANT TO KNOW or DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW.

The Great King Salmon Mystery

You may be wondering why you failed to catch that king salmon this year? Some are calling it a king salmon crisis but few if any will attempt to answer the mysterious question as to where all of our king salmon have gone to. It's not a salmon crisis when your neighbor fails to catch a king, it's a crisis when you fail to catch one. If you ask the Alaska
Department of Fish & Game, they will claim that our freshwater rivers and streams are producing plenty of baby king salmon. The mystery appears to begin as these baby kings leave the relative safety of the freshwater and enter the extremely dangerous saltwater. Our ADF&G is currently telling us that SOMETHING in the saltwater is killing our king salmon. The mystery thickens as you try to follow a Cook Inlet baby king salmon's life habits while it attempts to survive the perils of the Pacific Ocean from Kodiak Island to the Gulf of Alaska and beyond. In order to discover where these kings are going you need to do a little research into what has changed out in the Pacific Ocean. One of the largest factors which is constantly changing is the amount of fish our Commercial Pollock Fisheries are harvesting and the "by-catch killing and dumping" of marine life around that Pollock target.

The Observed Silent By-Catch Death

From the 1950 - 1960 Commercial Pollock Fishing was non-existent because Pollock populations had been commercially wiped out prior to that but that changed as Pollock populations again swelled by 1965. As soon as Commercial Pollock Fisheries again spotted this they immediately greatly expanded their fishing efforts from 1965 to 1970 and caught about 2,000,000 metric tons of Pollock annually until they again killed off the fishery causing that harvest to crash again back down to around 1,000,000 metric tons annually. Commercial harvest levels remained around 1,000,000 metric tons annually until around 1998 when our Pollock populations again blossomed thus causing our commercial Pollock fishermen to again take notice. Pollock catches then went up to 1,400,000 metric tons annually until about 2008 when commercial fisheries again wiped out these Pollock populations back down to the previous 1,000,000 metric tons annually again. After this decade of over fishing, by 2008 Pollock production then began a general downward nose dive because of the heavy commercial over-fishing. At the same time the whole sale price of Pollock then shot through the roof as our Pacific Pollock production did not rebound and continues to crash to this day.

How doe's this all affect king salmon in the Cook Inlet area? Our Commercial Fisheries research has proved that there are approximately four king salmon by-catch killed and thrown over-board within each metric ton of Pollock harvest. At current Pollock harvest levels this would result in a king salmon by-catch of about 4,000,000 adult king salmon annually. Our North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, NPFMC has set annual trawler by-catch kill caps on king salmon at 25,000 in the Gulf of Alaska and 60,000 in the Bering Sea. This has resulted in an annual 85,000 king by-catch cap on a possible 4,000,000 king salmon by-catch killing rate. We are forced to use our imagination as to where the other 3,915,000 possible dead adult kings are at each year. The point here is that it is not currently possible to conduct a 1 - 2 million ton annual Pollock harvest without dramatically affecting the ocean marine environment surrounding those Pollock.

There are different ways to harvest fish just like there are different way to mine minerals. Strip-mining has proved to be a very efficient way to physically extract minerals but its consequences to the environment have been found to be devastating. The same can be said for the current destructive methods used by our trawls to extract Pollock from the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. Current trawler technology does not provide a method to effectively harvest Pollock without grave consequences to the marine life surrounding those Pollock. Our current trawler fisheries appear to be operating with the same ecological concern as historic strip miners as they stomped the planet into the ground while attempting to make a dollar. The bottom line is that it is very difficult to extract millions of tons of anything from our oceans without severely impacting the marine life trying to live there. Our king salmon are attempting to survive a trawler fishery system which is strip-mining their home. This commercial fisheries industrial activity is devastating our king salmon environment with by-catch but it some how manages to never accidentally kill more than the magic 85,000 king cap. which would shut them down. Many millions of kings are being "by-catch killed" by this trawler fishery but the numbers are not being accurately reported to the public.

The Non-Observed Silent By-Catch Death

While these commercial trawlers are busy "by-catch killing" adult kings, they are also "by-catching tossing" overboard DEAD smaller bait fish which salmon feed on; thus also reducing the prey our salmon have access to. Tremendous schools of herring, cod, rockfish, sand fish, hooligan, candle fish, smelt, stickleback, wolf fish and squid have been permanently wiped out with "bait fish by-catch dumping". This environmental destruction then forces our salmon to forage longer to meet their daily and future calorie intake needs.

Upon entering the ocean, young salmon require huge amounts of prey to allow them to build fat reserves sufficient to allow them to migrate back to their freshwater rivers and streams. During the years prior to returning to freshwater, salmon feed voraciously in order to grow and build strength for the coming journey back home. As trawlers kill and "by-catch dump" this salmon prey back into the ocean, they dramatically increase a salmons chances of never achieving sufficient fat reserves to make it back to their native freshwater rivers and streams. This "by-catch killing and dumping" of salmon prey then forces salmon to forage longer, thus exposing them to additional predator encounters with salmon hunting killer and beluga whales along with seals. The additional predator exposure and the fat reserve reduction then further reduces a salmons chances of ever returning to its freshwater home. "By-catch killing & dumping" a salmon's food source actually works to kill salmon with a basic lack of fat reserves. If a salmon is still able to stagger along anyway, the trawlers then kill them with a lack of fat reserves. If by some chance they manage to survive all these indirect salmon killers, the trawlers then just directly attack them with general salmon "by-catch dumping". What is happening here is these commercial trawlers are hitting our salmon from all sides and they cannot take it.

To make matters even worse, new emerging trawler technology is now allowing trawler operators to even view the dead contents of their nets "before" the net even reaches the surface of the water. These new in-net cameras are now allowing operators to spot nets saturated with dead salmon, while the net is still fishing underwater. This technology has provided these operators with the ability to dump an entire net filled with salmon before it even reaches the surface. What would you do when confronted with a net full of dead salmon, which you cannot sell? These salmon are being dump dead just like all other marine life unfortunate enough to become trapped in these ecological killing machines. These trawler nets are the same type of ecological threat as floreral carbons to our ozone layer or carbon dioxide to global warming and they all operate out of sight. Ecologists used to watch trawler by-catch in an attempt to control the marine destruction but now commercial fisheries technology has leaped out in front of them and is allowing nets full of anything to be dumped dead, before even reaching the surface to be recorded as by-catch. Just about everything our salmon are trying to do to survive out in the ocean is under attack or is being interfered with by this commercial trawler fleet. The grand result of decades of this triple trawler wipe-out effect, (fat reserves, predator's and by-catch) is that very few salmon are surviving to even attempt the journey back to their native rivers or streams.

A Proposed By-Catch Solution

Some may ask what the solution is to all this unbelievable fisheries information? If you ask the Alaska Department of Fish & Game they will point to a snow storm of data and grafts, which will leave a person even more confused about our commercial fisheries by-catch problems. My conclusion is that many things may need to change within our commercial fisheries but key within those changes is that statewide we must stop commercial fisheries from profiting when they kill non-targeted marine life as by-catch. This means that commercial fisheries should be legally required to retain and process BY-CATCH and then DONATE IT to a charity. That 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 by-catch 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 marine by-catch.

The king salmon by-catch issue is 100% 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 now we will be permanently losing many marine specie and fisheries in the very near future. As long as commercial fisheries are allowed to profit from by-catch, the by-catch issue will never go away and therefore all of our Alaskan natural resources and fisheries will go on suffering FOREVER.

The new reality in our fisheries future must be that commercial by-catch is going to cost you. It really does not matter if it is a large fine or the charity donation, the Alaskan [filtered word] needs hold commercial fisheries accountable for the marine destruction it is causing within the saltwater. The wholesale slaughter of non-targeted species is no longer just acceptable losses. This mean that the Alaskan public must 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.

So you see, you can release as many smolt as you like but it is really pointless when next to none of them will make it back for you to try to fish for on the Kasilof River. This is a much larger problem than a few missing kings from the Kasilof River. Releasing whatever number of kings into the Kasilof River would be like addressing a single drop of water within a flood. We need to address the flood, not the drop of water.

Roger104 01/02/13 - 10:47 pm

It's supposed to be a comment, not a book.

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 01/03/13 - 05:56 am
Good stuff but...

Kenai123, this is great stuff! If you wrote it, you should have it published! If you simply cut and pasted it, you went a bit overboard. Sometimes getting to a simple point with a reference to a link is a little bit better and saves the reader the time of reading through the gobble de gook. I cut and paste from time to time as well, but not entire columns, just bits and pieces.
Again, this is good stuff and if you wrote it... by all means publish it! If you didn't and simply copy and pasted from a link, would you please copy and paste the actual link for me as I would like to read more and there is a possibility the author included sources and references. Thanks.

kenai123 01/05/13 - 11:52 am
Shorter version and published information

Sam Von Pufendorf,
The information you are referencing was created or written by me and as far as I know only published within boards like this one. All that information is out there on the web with a million sources, if I listed all the references it would be a list as long as the actual information
which nobody wants to read or understand in the first place. You just have to spend a lot of time reading to find it. I have just summed it all up. This information has been sent to the Clarion but because the issue is so large and complex, it becomes very long, to long for the Clarion. It is a catch 22 situation, explain the problem in a short statement and NOBODY can believe it, explain it at full length and NOBODY wants to read it. So folks like our KING SALMON TASK FORCE decide they would rather wander around and shrug their shoulders as to where all our kings are at rather than do a little reading.

Okay here is your shorter version. Commercial fishing is destroying our fisheries right before our eyes. Our king salmon losses are just the latest loss which we are able to view.
We need to hold commercial fisheries accountable for their by-catch destruction in the ocean by forcing them to pay a fine when they kill and waste our fisheries resources.
Does that statement get us any closer to a solution? It is like telling everyone to be good and then expect world peace to descend over the planet. From what I have seen people need to understand the issue before the problem even has a chance to be solved. Telling folks we need more fish here or there is meaningless when those fish will just be quickly wiped out as soon as they hit the ocean.

kenai123 01/06/13 - 06:55 pm
The Alaska King Salmon Task Force Website

I specifically ask that the king salmon task force request, that the state of Alaska request, that the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council adopt fisheries quota regulations which require all fishermen to bring all catches to port and deduct any discards or by-catch from their quotas. This is how the EU has decided to handle the high seas waste of fisheries by-catch and discard. We should do the same. I am making my request here because The Alaska King Salmon Task Force Website does not function at
Situation Normal...

EU fish discard ban agreed -- for 2019
Environmental groups say discards waste 1.3 million tonnes of fish a year and wanted an immediate ban on the practice.
The deal for a 2014 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy notably will ban the contested practice of discarding dead fish caught by accident, however not before 2019.
Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavian nations favoured forcing fishermen to bring all catches to port and deduct discards from their quotas.

kenai123 01/06/13 - 06:52 pm
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council

Write to the NPFMC

The Voting Members of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council

Jim Balsiger -
Cora Campbell -
Sam Cotten -
Craig Cross -
Ed Dersham -
Duncan Fields -
Dave Hanson -
John Henderschedt -
Dan Hull -
Roy Hyder -
Eric Olson -
Bill Tweit -

North Pacific Fisheries Management Council Website

borninak 01/06/13 - 10:01 pm
Fishing Fantasy

I want to live in that fantasy world on the Kenai River where you can take tourists out fishing for money, but hide behind the moniker "sportfisherman". When I have killed too many kings and there aren't enough left, I can blame everybody in the world but myself, for being the problem. When my "sportfishing" cash flow slows down, I will call all those fish killing commercial fisherman "greedy" for not allowing me to make the money I am accustomed to making. I will kill as many kings as possible for cash, but claim commercial fishing is 100% responsible when I run out of fish, for surely all those King Salmon my buddies and I killed don't count since after all, we are Sportfisherman. Only "commercially" killed King Salmon cause all the problems, right?
Snap back to reality and realize Kenai River Commerical Fishing Guides & Cook Inlet Commercial Gillnetters are joined at the hip, and will bear the burden of the salmon shortages equally. Last summer, when nobody was fishing, should have been a wake up call as to that reality. I would have to go back into my dream world to believe that if I bash every other user group enough, one day I will have every one of those glorious King Salmon all to myself. All those greedy other people will be gone and I will live in Nirvana.

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