Enough fish for everyone

An Outdoor View

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 les.palmer@rocketmail.com.


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