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The Canadian way

Posted: November 25, 2011 - 10:15am  |  Updated: November 29, 2011 - 10:34am

It's only a matter of time until Alaska further limits the number of fish non-residents can take home. A proposal the Alaska Board of Fisheries will consider early in 2012 would do just that.

Proposal 249, submitted by the Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council, would establish annual limits for nonresidents for coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon. The council left the number of fish for the board to decide. Residents would continue to have no annual limits for these salmon species.

While this proposal applies only to Southeast waters, it might well apply to other heavily fished areas of the state, such as the Kenai Peninsula.

It wouldn't surprise me if the fish board adopted this proposal. In the Southeast Region, non-residents already have annual limits for king salmon, steelhead, shark (except spiny dogfish), lingcod, yelloweye rockfish and sablefish (black cod). What's another four species?

According to the advisory council, "... abuses to sport fishing bag and possession limits by some nonresident anglers are well known. These behavior patterns by a few nonresidents are contributing to conservation issues that are difficult to address on a case by case basis."

It concerns council members that subsistence and personal-use fishermen are required to list on a permit all the coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon they harvest, but that sport-fishing non-residents aren't. A large number of sport-harvested fish go uncounted, they claim. Non-residents should enter all salmon on a harvest card, they propose.

They have a point. Under current regulations, and when fishing is good, it's possible for non-residents on an extended trip to Alaska to catch as many salmon as resident subsistence or personal-use fishermen.

As to the claim that sport-harvested fish go uncounted, the Department of Fish and Game conducts annual postal surveys of anglers, as well as creel censuses in some fisheries. Still, it doesn't seem right that non-residents can harvest large numbers of any fish without having to record them.

How many salmon can a non-resident legally harvest?

In most Southeast waters, the daily limit for coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon (16 inches or longer) is six of each species daily, and the possession limit is 12 of each species. However, once the fish are canned or frozen, they no longer count as part of a possession limit. The angler can go right on fishing, catching the daily bag limit, day after day.

At the peak of the run, when the daily bag limit is six, an angler staying for a week at a lodge or campground on the Kenai River can easily fill two 50-pound boxes with fillets.

Instead of annual limits, the Board of Fisheries may want to consider what British Columbia did to staunch the flood of fish to the Lower 48. After all, Alaska and B.C. share the same "Outside," as well as a good many of the same fish.

The dramatic difference between what non-residents can do in Alaska and mainly attributable to different definitions of "possession limit."

Alaska's definitions:

possession limit--the maximum number of unpreserved fish a person may have in possession.

preserved fish--fish prepared in such a manner and in an existing state of preservation, as to be fit for human consumption after a 15-day period, and does not include unfrozen fish temporarily stored in coolers that contain ice, dry ice, or fish that are lightly salted.

B.C.'s definitions:

possession limit--the number of fish of any species that an angler may have in his/her possession at any given time, except at place of ordinary residence.

ordinary residence-- a residential dwelling where a person normally lives, with all associated connotations including a permanent mailing address, telephone number, furnishings and storage of automobile; the address on one's driver's licence and automobile registration, where one is registered to vote.

A motor home or vessel at a campsite or marina is not considered to be an ordinary residence.

Note that B.C.'s definition uses the all-inclusive "fish," which means all fish, whether fresh or preserved. Also, it's illegal in B.C. to "field-can" any fish outside of a person's ordinary residence.

Comparing the two definitions of "possession limit," B.C.'s version definitely benefits residents. Compare the maximum number of frozen salmon a non-resident angler can take home: from B.C., eight; from Alaska, as many you can afford to vacuum-pack, freeze and ship home.

Limiting non-residents may not happen next year, since most Alaskans seem to be happy with the season just past. But why wait until salmon become scarce? Now might be a good time to limit non-residents the Canadian way.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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akmscott 11/25/11 - 02:04 pm
And Canada's profits from

And Canada's profits from non-resident licences have plummeted.U.S. citizens can not even take home trophy fish anymore.So believe it or not-US citizens stopped going to Canada for fishing, imagine that!

8Stars 11/29/11 - 03:27 am
The Canadian Way

Tighter regulation is a great idea. It would definitely stop full scale fishing/canning operations done by non-resident "tourists" that pay for their whole summer in Alaska selling smoked, canned salmon at swap-meets, etc. in the lower 48. This same practice is in full swing by local fisherman as well during the Kenai dip-netting season.

gamewarden 11/29/11 - 06:22 am
THE Canadian Way

I'm so glad I live on the Kenai, in the good old US of A. THE canadian Way in Monarchy, no fair share for you, or you, or me, UNLESS you happen to be commercial. Don't you dare to complain or you will be further screwtinized..Poor old mushheads just line up and bear the weight of Govt control..As a retiree I am also glad for the personal use fishery which seriously offsets winter food costs.

bobscabin 11/29/11 - 12:54 pm
Alaska Possession Limits Long Overdue

Yes, fish possession limits for both non-residents and RESIDENTS are long overdue. As far as I know, most states have a daily bag limit and a possession limit. The possession limit (fresh, frozen or preserved) is normally twice the daily bag limit. Even with the extremely liberal bag limits in Alaska, I see both locals and guides violating the laws by party fishing. The locals also misuse the proxy sysytem to violate the laws and exceed the bag limits. In August, most of the boats on the Kenai River operated by non-guided locals are violating the law by party fishing. Some of the guide boats are doing thre same. Unfortunately there is almost no law enforcement effort to curb this greedy behavior.

yamwrench 12/01/11 - 01:20 pm
The Canadian Way

Last time I checked,in the Kenai River there was a problem with over-escapement in the sockeye fishery. In fact the upper end of the escapement goal is often exceeded by tens to hundreds of thousands. So it appears to me, that us Outsiders are enjoying the fish we take home, helping to ensure future runs through sustainable harvest, and pumping millions of dollars into your local economy. Your idea to restrict the fishery and let over-escapement destroy the fishery makes so much sense, so does sending the millions of dollars that tourists bring to your town somewhere else. Perhaps if you like it the Canadian way you should move to the socialist country just south of you. We already have enough government restrictions.

Carver 12/02/11 - 07:41 am
Bad idea!

As I see it, the idea of limiting how much fish summer visitors can take home is divisive and nothing more than a facade for selfishness, jealousy, and xenophobia.

If there are conservation concerns, then whatever limits need be applied should be applied to all, residents and nonresidents alike.

Until then, let our summer visitors enjoy Alaska the same way we residents do.

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