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Enough fish for everyone

An Outdoor View

Posted: August 3, 2012 - 9:16am

You hear it at Alaska Board of Fisheries meetings. During the public testimony part of the goings on, after most everything has been said on the subject of how the board should allocate salmon, some naive soul inevitably says, “There’s enough fish for everyone.”

I thought about that remark Wednesday while listening to fish board members discussing Cook Inlet salmon fishing issues in a teleconference meeting. No public testimony was taken, but if any had been, no one would’ve said there was enough fish for everyone.

What’s “enough” and who is “everyone”?

This year many Kenai Peninsula residents have all the sockeyes they want to eat, but they haven’t been able to fish for kings.  If you’re an east-side setnetter who was allowed to fish only one opening this year, you definitely haven’t caught enough reds.

“Enough” has many meanings. My home freezer has enough room for 20 sockeyes, but 15 is enough for me. On the other hand, I know people who think 40, 50 or 90 is more like enough.

Some people can’t catch enough salmon to satisfy their needs, let alone their wants. They don’t have the time. When they have time, the fish aren’t there. Other people, for various reasons, are unable to catch and process salmon. They seldom, if ever, get “enough.”

People who fish for money can’t seem to get “enough.” It’s the nature of the thing. There’s no limit to the number of salmon commercial fishermen can catch. The more they catch, the more money they have to spend, and more money equates to more fun, comfort and security. Who has enough fun, comfort and security?

Commercial fishermen and fishing guides are in the same boat, though guides are loath to admit it. Both groups are part of the same economic activity: fishing for money. They can never get “enough.”

Those of us who catch sockeyes with hook and line or dipnet need large numbers of fish in the river for fishing to be good. If the numbers aren’t large enough, or if we’re unskilled or unlucky, we don’t catch enough fish.

Only in a perfect world would there be enough fish for everyone.  In such a world, the supply would always satisfy the demand. We would somehow transport fish to all the remote places, ensuring that everyone got “enough.” Maybe if aquaculture becomes well enough advanced, and if Earth’s population is brought under control, there will be enough fish for everyone, but there will never be enough wild fish for everyone.

In the meantime, until we become perfect, the fish fights will continue, as they have ever since man first discovered that fish could be caught and eaten. The only exceptions are places where there are no fish to fight over, such as the New England fishing communities that once counted on Atlantic cod for their economic mainstay. In those towns, there’s not enough fish for anyone.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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kenai123 08/07/12 - 09:28 pm

Dear Les, regarding your comments "fishing guides are in the same boat as commercial fishermen, though guides loath admitting they are part of the same economic activity: fishing for money." Saying that a fishing guide fishes for money like a commercial fishermen is like saying a back yard tomatoe gardener is a part of the same economic activity as industrialized tomatoe growers. The fact that one "makes little cash and operates within daily bag limits" and the other "makes lots of cash and has zero daily bag limits", appears to be meaningless to you? You appear to be claiming that if you make a single dollar from sportfishing, that you are part of the same mechanism which seeks out strong marine resources and turns them into weak marine resources? I directly challenge you to locate a single historic strong fishery which was turned into a weak fishery by a sportfishery? For everyone you find by magic chance, I will list ten commercial fisheries which destroyed strong fisheries. The truth is that there is a huge difference between sportfishing and commercial fishing and that difference is the WIPE OUT EFFECT. Commercial fisheries are very good at wiping fish out because the fish lack a choice in the process, they are just scooped up and hauled away; end of story. Sportfishing offers a fish the option of "biting or not" and that is a really huge difference. No matter what anyone says, they are not all going to bite, get hooked or cooperate when sportfish tries to get them into the boat. That fact alone is a super conservation factor, which is the main reason zero sportfisheries have destroyed any fisheries. So as you can see the two users groups are like comparing tomatoe gardener with industrialized tomatoes growers; the two have little in common. That is probably why those guides loath the comparison; it's a silly comparison. Regarding there being enough fish for everyone; I have heard that same public testimony but the person saying it has no idea that with commercial fishing, each fish equals a set dollar amount
and Howard Hughes said it best when asked "How much money is enough money?" ; his response was "Just one more dollar." Since fish equal dollars within commercial fishing, then there is no such thing as catching enough fish. There is a very large difference between guides and commercial fishermen. When sportfish guides reach their legal daily bag limit of fish they specifically announce to the world that they have enough fish, they stop fishing. Commercial fishermen never reach such a thing as a daily bag limit; they just go on and on catching and killing everything swimming the water, be it a seal, bird or even a calf beluga whale. So you see guides and commercial fishermen are not really part of the same economic activity. Also in a war a soldier may kill men during a battle; is that the same as killing prisoner after that battle? They may all be dead but they did not all died as part of the same activity of war. You broad-brushing guides and commercial fishermen into the same economic activity is also an outrageous comparison. Guides are part of a user group which has never WIPED OUT any fisheries and commercial fishermen have wiped out hundreds. I can understand you not liking guides or the person beating you to YOUR PERSONAL FISHING HOLE but hating them enough to publishing volumes of anti-guide comments? These guides are common users just like you. They are just accessing our fisheries resources a little different than you, that is not a good reason to hate them. So the bottom line is that WE DO have enough fish for any user OTHER than commercial fishing. Once commercial fishing steps into a fishery, there is no such thing as enough fish for everyone because enough fish for them is JUST ONE MORE FISH.

Beach Boss
Beach Boss 08/08/12 - 02:12 am
Wow kenai123

Mr. Kenai123 every time I read one of your posts I shake my head at how much hatred you have for commercial fisherman. I am a law obiding, college educated, tax paying, property owner, business owner and I have a family. Believe it or not we are both more alike than you think. I earn "little cash" as a set netter. Just like you earn "little cash" as a guide. There is nothing wrong with that. If you think "we make lots of cash" and that's all you are concerned with, I know lots of set netters that have their sites for sale if you should be so interested in the opportunity to make "lots of cash".
When you talk about WIPE OUT fisheries, could you explain what has happened to the first run of kings? I know my nets are dry during that run and have been for many many years, so I definitely can't be blamed for that poor return. Could the 400% growth of guides over the last 25 years be a contrubiting factor though??? You can not blame commercial fisherman 100% for what is happening right here on the kenai can you?? Can you really say the in river user group has NOTHING to do with what's happening to our river?
Mr. Kenai123 if commercial fisherman are WIPED OUT (your dream I know) that will not solve the problem to the low king
Please don't hate me for how I choose to make a "little cash". I would love to buy you a beer sometime!!

smithtb 08/08/12 - 09:29 am
123 get a dictionary

   [kuh-mur-shuhl] adjective
1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of commerce.

2. engaged in commerce.

3. prepared, done, or acting with sole or chief emphasis on salability, profit, or success: a commercial product; His attitude toward the theater is very commercial.

4. able to yield or make a profit: We decided that the small oil well was not commercial.

5. suitable or fit for a wide, popular market: Communications satellites are gradually finding a commercial use.

123, you have a business. You harvest fish for profit. You are a commercial fisherman. The degree of success your business experiences has no bearing on whether it's a commercial enterprise or not - it's the intent to make money. By the way, I know some VERY lucrative commerial guiding operations. Many of these business make more than the average commercial gillnet operation.

You are a less efficient fish harvester than commercial gillnetters. That's why it's dumb to keep looking through the lense of number of fish harvested. The pressure your user group asserts on our resource is not simply a concern about # of fish caught, but the amount of effort expended. The amount of boat traffic alone on the river during a busy year is a concern - just look at past problems with hydrocarbons.

Pollution, boots trampling the bank, fishing pressure on spawning grounds, water turbidity - these are all problems that have nothing to do with the number of fish harvested by your user group. They are all related to fishing effort or number of participants. There is currently no limit to the amount of in-river commercial fishing business that may exist. There is no limit on the number of users or total harvest in any of the in-river fisheries. That is a problem regardless of what is going on in the ocean.

julie 08/09/12 - 07:06 am
End Salmon Bycatch Petition

Of course by fish & game telling everyone there is enough fish they're perpetuating the lie that they know as well as everyone else knows that the chinook run is being killed and NO IS TALKING ABOUT THE TRAWLER THEFT & KILLING. Why is everyone protecting them from the governor on down, our senator, fish & game, and even the culprits themselves the NORTHWEST FISHERIES management CONCIL. We will be going to their meeting in Oct. in Anchorage anyone else interested in joining us and putting forth a proposal please sign the petition "share or like it" & get us a message on the facebook page.

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