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Lower escapement goals not healthy for kings

Posted: January 28, 2014 - 9:25am

I have fished on the Kenai since 1987. King salmon have become increasingly scarce over the last several years. In fact, I have not fished for kings in the last 3 years .

As ocean productivity seems to be in a general statewide decline for king salmon, I think it is a mistake to lower escapement goals as a management response. Fewer spawners seem to bear fewer fish and it can be a reinforcing downward cycle. We must have adequate numbers of spawning king salmon in our rivers. This will maximize the overall size of the returns. Larger returns greatly reduce our risks for overfishing this invaluable resource.

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kenai123
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kenai123 01/29/14 - 03:27 pm
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managing for the fish?

I have also fished the Kenai River since 1987 and used to see dozens of kings rising and darting by while drift fishing a hole. That all seemed to change somewhere from 1995 - 2000 as it seemed more difficult to catch a king each year. The ADF&G claimed that they needed to lower their Kenai king escapement goal because their new Didson sonar counted fish different from the old Bendix system. They attempted to prove the sonar technological differences with an inch thick mathematics explanation which came down to smoke & mirrors. This is part of the same smoke & mirror show which proved that we could "commercially harvest" all our herring and still have plenty of herring. Now that our herring are gone they pull out a new smoke & mirror show to prove that we never had any herring in the first place. They did the same show for our crab and now our kings are missing also?
Is this fisheries mis-management?

There are only three things the ADF&G could do regarding Kenai River king escapement goals; increase, decrease or keep them the same. The ADF&G couldn't increase or keep them the same because they knew that would automatically shutting down river and east side set nets users. Therefore their only choice left was to lower to goal because they might be able to reach a lower goal, thus allowing these users some limited use.

The goal for the Board of Fish and the ADF&G is not to maximize the size of our king returns or even maintain adequate numbers of spawning kings; the goal is to keep user groups from screaming at the people who appointed the board or write ADF&G pay checks. This is why the majority of the issues the board takes up are somehow involved in fisheries allocation issues.

If the board were actually doing its true fisheries management job they would be asking where all of our herring stocks went and how do we get them back? They would do the same for our missing crab stocks. The reason they don't get involved in these issues is because the stocks are gone, therefore no real users or special interest politics to argue for their allocation of the resource. Herring and crab are therefore not big issues to fight over because they are basically gone. The same can be said now about kings because they are also gone. You can be as concerned as you like, that will not make our board or the ADF&G begin to manage the fish, instead of the fisherman.

If our board of fish were managing our fish they would basically close down all commercial fishing on herring, crab and king salmon. Because they are not managing these fish they continue to allow commercial fisheries to hammer away at these depleted stocks.

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