Some have asked why our ADF&G wishes to enforce a catch and release fishery on the Kenai River early run of king salmon. Some say it is because the fishery resource is troubled. The ADF&G claims that the 5 AAC 57.160 Kenai River Early-run King Plan, allows them to enforce this catch and release fishery. If you read 5 AAC 57.160, it doesn’t take long for a person to discover that it does not grant the ADF&G this kind of authority unless they can (pre-season) project a low or high escapement. It states that if the run (pre-season) projects within the Optimal Escapement Goal, OEG of 5,300-9,000 kings, that the sport fishery is to be conducted within the management plan rules until June 30th. If the run (pre-season) projects above or below the OEG range, the ADF&G is authorized to establish a catch and release fishery until June 30th.
This seems like a simple way to run a fishery but the ADF&G has decided to not play by the rules. The department has decided to not make the single (pre-season) projection and instead desires to make as many projections as it wants. These multiple projections can then result in multiple management shifts. With this kind of management there could be a new daily projection, along with a new daily management direction. This kind of fisheries management can destroy a sport fishery.
I see that 5 AAC 57.160 infers a context of a single (pre-season) run projection, which either (restricts/liberalizes) or (uses Plan Tools) for the entire early run. This kind of management choice would provide clear and stable fisheries management for a sport fishery. Our ADF&G is claiming that it is acceptable to make a new projection everyday of week and jerk a fishery and the public around with each change. The unpredictability of such a fishery would not only destroy our economy but also destroy many of our residents’ lives. Our Board of Fisheries knew this; that is why they did not intend this kind of management within 5 AAC 57.160.
I have no idea why the ADF&G worked up an escapement projection 30 fish over the lower OEG limit but according to 5 AAC 57.160 when the projection hits within the OEG (like it did in 2013) the river automatically goes into standard management plan tools like restricting lengths, the use of bait or multiple hooks and methods and means. I see that 5 AAC 57.160 requires the ADF&G to announce their management choice in the (pre-season), which would be before May 1st.
The ADF&G is required to pick between (a dramatic reduction / liberalization EO fishery) or (a standard rules management plan fishery). Our ADF&G is currently claiming that they do not have to pick one or the other and can in fact straddle both management choices at the same time. This is why many people are upset and confused by their actions.
The problem with the resulting fishery begins with the ADF&G inability to decide which management prospective they wish to start the fishery with. When the ADF&G says they want to enforce an emergency order to restrict because of their “latest projection”, they are really saying that they want to completely destabilize the sport fishery, even beyond the problems which already exist within the resource itself. So the bottom line becomes one of our fisheries management being as mixed up as the resource itself. These two extremely negative forces now appear posed to combining together to severely reduce or injure our economy.
The only thing worse than not having a fishery is not having any fisheries management.