Current weather

  • Clear sky
  • 57°
    Clear sky
  • Comment

Les Palmer: The state of the Kenai, Part 2

Posted: May 22, 2014 - 3:43pm

Author’s note: Part 2 in a series of two columns.

Over the years, fish habitat and the quality of the fishing experience have deteriorated on the Kenai River. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing — fishing more and enjoying it less — we’re setting ourselves up for what happened in the Pacific Northwest, where salmon increasingly face extinction.

When I ask people what they think ought to be done to improve the Kenai River’s fish habitat or its fishing, I get a lot of “we need fish-board members and politicians who will make some positive changes.” That’s true enough, but it’s not the whole story. While members of the Board of Fisheries, state legislators and various members of local governments do have the authority to affect change, the real power to change things comes from the people. Nothing significant will be done for Kenai River fish or fishing until people want it to be done.

How many people will it take?

It’ll take enough to over-ride the nay-sayers, the dooms-day prophets and the commercial interests that can’t see beyond their bottom lines. Enough to sway votes in favor of fish and fishing. Enough to get the right people appointed and elected. Enough to accomplish the things that must be done, such as:

■ To ensure healthy salmon runs and to provide a quality fishing experience, fishing pressure must be reduced on Cook Inlet and the Kenai River. All use must be reduced and limited, with commercial use first. Far too many people now rely on this fragile, finite resource for a living. Commercial users shouldn’t be depended upon to “self limit.”

■ To make the river a more productive place for spawning and rearing salmon, a 15-year moratorium should be placed on the use of power boats on the Kenai. This would help to restore the Kenai to quieter, more natural state, as well as improving fish habitat and reducing turbidity and erosion due to boat wakes.

■ Sanctuaries should be created to ensure the sustainability of the various groups of salmon with discrete life histories. For example, at least some early-run king salmon should be allowed to spawn in their traditional areas of the main-stem Kenai without being caught in July, during the late-run king salmon fishery. As now managed, some of these unique salmon groups may be in a “threatened” status.

If you’re wondering, I’m well aware that something in the marine environment is the likely cause of the dismal statewide king salmon runs in recent years, not something in the Kenai River. But I’m also aware that we —individuals, groups, bureaucrats, politicians, all of us — haven’t been looking far enough into the future. We’ve put economics ahead of conservation. We’ve neither paid enough or pushed hard enough for agencies and fishing organizations to be more proactive. We should be doing what’s best for the salmon, not what’s best for the “greatest good,” or for the group that shows up with the most people at meetings.

The above proposals and other similar proposals were considered by the Board of Fisheries at it’s meeting earlier this year, but they didn’t get enough support to win approval. What will it take to win that approval?

Ensuring sustainable salmon runs and improving the quality of the fishing experience will require a strong, collective will. This means our attitudes toward salmon will have to change. As a culture, not as disparate groups of users, we need to learn to relate more closely to salmon than we have in the past. As a culture, we need to feel more responsible for them. In a cooperative effort, we need to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to ensure that salmon spawning and rearing habitats remain healthy, and that fishing practices don’t endanger salmon sustainability. Historically, we’ve failed spectacularly at this level of caring and commitment. Like sea gulls, we’ve ceaselessly bickered over who gets what fish.

Minus a strong, collective will and some changed attitudes, I fear that we’ll squabble salmon into extinction, and that our “world-class” fishing will become nothing but a cheap, world-class tourist trap.

In “King of Fish, the Thousand-Year Run of Salmon,” author David R. Montgomery wrote,“Under human influences the landscape gradually evolved right out from under salmon.” In a more positive vein he noted that “Salmon and civilization can coexist, if we so choose.” Keeping these points in mind will help us focus on doing the right thing for the Kenai River and salmon.

Thinking about the multitude of forces working against salmon can be depressing, but I haven’t given up hope that we can learn from our past mistakes. With enough persistence, enthusiasm and cooperation, we can do it, or at least I hope we can. I wouldn’t want to live in a world without salmon.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

  • Comment

Comments (13) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
potomac
191
Points
potomac 05/24/14 - 09:17 am
0
1
good points

All the fish fights, I have seen some of these suggestions laughed at with the hostile meetings in Soldotna. You can't even get a word in so I quit going years ago. No one seems to want to change so they will be fighting over the last king on the Peninsula, not just the Kenai, the Kasilof is also destroyed 10 times over from years past, all the rivers dumping into Cook Inlet have gone the same way, just ask anyone up north or on the West side. Mean while a fight over mines in the worst possible country on the Alaskan Peninsula go on and on, the last hold out of some trophy rainbow, salmon, etc., 1/2 the worlds red salmon come from this country and what is happening, the mine owners sues the EPA..... I would love to see the kenai a foot fishing only place for 10 years and all the in river spawning areas off limits, if not that last king isn't too far down the road.

mikehu
143
Points
mikehu 05/24/14 - 11:05 pm
1
1
The commercial fishery has

The commercial fishery has seen ups and downs in its 110 year history. Management has been a learning curve but was basically successful. The sport idustry needs to learn that as well and quit blaming the commercial fishermen. There was not a problem until the river was fished daily by an average of 1600 hooks a day raking the spawning holes for twenty plus years. Now as it is we have a billion dollar industry waiting on a few kings.

KenaiKardinal88
396
Points
KenaiKardinal88 05/26/14 - 04:11 pm
1
2
Commercial Fishers Will Kill The River

Commie fishers still don't get it and they never will. History is full of examples where commercial fishing interests destroyed a river, only to move onto another one.

Commie fisher take the most fish - by far - and leave little quality fishing time or numbers for the average Alaskan.

mikehu
143
Points
mikehu 05/27/14 - 01:08 am
1
0
On History

KK, history will also validate the success of the commercial fishery being managed through various crisis and being brought back again to fruition.

kenai123
1312
Points
kenai123 06/02/14 - 01:20 pm
2
1
Statewide or local king problem?

Really Les? So your prescription to fix our statewide king losses is to just STOP people from fishing Cook Inlet and the Kenai River and to STOP expecting commercial fisheries to manage themselves? Then you say we should STOP the public from fishing the Kenai River with a power boats along with not fishing specific parts of the Kenai River"?

You basically used 787 words to tell us that our statewide king problems will be resolved by STOPPING people from fishing only the Kenai River. You used 29 words to reference a possible marine environment problem. So you spent 3% of your time telling us that we have a statewide king problem and 97% of your time telling us that we can solve this statewide problem by STOPPING the public from fishing the Kenai River.

How can any rational person not understand that we have a huge statewide king loss problems and that STOPPING people from fishing on only the Kenai River will do NOTHING to rebuild the many impacted rivers? All of the following rivers have greatly reduced king runs like the Kenai but they lack angler access. Will Anti-Kenai River solutions help the Karluk River? Will they help the Ayakulik River? Will they help the Chignik River? Will they help Nelson Lagoon (sapasuk) River? Will they help the Kuskokwim River? Will they help the Unuk River? Will they help the Stikine River? Will they help the Taku River? Will they help the Copper River? Will they help the Susitan River? Will they help the Chigni River? These rivers basically lack the negative Kenai River factors but they have the very same decline in their king salmon runs.

How could this be Les? Rivers without public access but the same king decline? This evidence points to a general statewide problem which is located within our ocean and NOT a specific river. When commercial king salmon by-catch went from a few thousand kings to hundreds of thousands annually by 2000, the alarms and buzzers should have been sounded but we heard nothing from our ADF&G until around 2007.
This dramatic increase in commercial catch and by-catch efficiency should have been announced at every fisheries meeting back then but not a word was offered by our fisheries managers until it was to late. Approximately 3 - 4 generations (15 - 20 years) of our adult king salmon were then silently taken from our ocean by 2008. This means that if we fixed the problem today, it will take at least that long for these runs to revive. The reason this happened is because our ADF&G fisheries managers failed to react and reduce commercial fisheries access as their efficiency increased.

If you actually are aware that "something in the marine environment" is causing a statewide loss of our king salmon, then you should have spent most of your words addressing statewide king issues. It is completely impossible for anyone to use your Anti-Kenai River specific solutions to fix our statewide king salmon problem.

Les your story should have been about "The State of the Gulf of Alaska Part 100" instead of "The State of the Kenai Part 2". You are behaving like a fire crew stomping on each little bitty fire with zero regard for the guy up ahead of you tossing matches out the window of his car. The matches are being tossed out in the Gulf of Alaska Les and they are burning up the kings that we send out there to graze. You could stomp down all our salmon fisheries statewide and it will have no effect on the trawler fires burning out in the Gulf of Alaska.

borninak
619
Points
borninak 05/31/14 - 07:34 am
1
0
Kings

It is also completely impossible for anyone to use Kenai123's Anti-Cook Inlet Set Net specific solutions to fix our statewide king salmon problem.

kenai123
1312
Points
kenai123 06/02/14 - 06:06 pm
1
0
That is correct borninak.

That is correct borninak, we could totally shut-down both the Kenai River and all of Cook Inlet and never touch this king problem. The bulk of these kings were killed on the main ocean from Kodiak on out to the west and south-west. Both Cook Inlet and Kodiak area fishermen are contributing factors to the king problem but that contribution is minor when compared to the king slaughter in the Gulf beyond Kodiak. Pollock trawlers killed so many adult king from 1990 - 2007, that it will take decades for the stock to recover.

kenai123
1312
Points
kenai123 05/31/14 - 06:19 pm
1
0
Les your 15 year drift boat dream

Les your 15 year drift boat dream on the Kenai River would not do anything to restore our Kenai River king salmon. The reason is simple; even if you totally banned ALL fishing in or around Cook Inlet "it would not restore our kings". You have failed to understand the magnitude and non-local nature of our king problem.

Also your drift boats would over-whelm existing Kenai River boat launches and disenfranchise at least half of those desiring to fish. Half of those lucky enough to launch a boat would end up being physically unable to paddle a fishing trip. This leaves you with about 25% of those desiring to fish a drift boat actually able to go fishing. As you can see the reality of your suggestion would end up removing the bulk of the public from accessing the Kenai River. Was that your goal? So you get a quieter, less turbid, erosion and boat wake free river with basically nobody fishing it for what?
Do our kings suddenly return statewide because nobody is fishing the Kenai River?

Since you could totally close all fishing in and around Cook Inlet and never even touch our current statewide king problem, all you would get is most of the public yanked off the Kenai River. Why are you wasting your time suggesting solutions to our king problem that have zero chances of addressing that problem?

Unglued
228
Points
Unglued 05/31/14 - 08:21 pm
2
0
Kings are just part of the Kenai's problems

I don't see where Les says the ideas in his columns will bring back the king salmon in the Kenai, let alone the whole state. What he wrote about is ongoing Kenai River issues and the future of the river. It's obvious that fishing guides don't like his ideas. For that reason alone, I'd say they probably have some merit ... .

kenai123
1312
Points
kenai123 05/31/14 - 10:16 pm
1
0
Unglued

You don't see where Les says the ideas in his columns will bring back the king salmon in the Kenai River"?

Les says plainly that "Nothing will change on the Kenai River until these things are done:
■ All Cook Inlet and the Kenai River users must be reduced and limited, with commercial use first.
■ No power boats on Kenai River.
■ More No Fishing Areas on The Kenai River. "

The entire context of this article is about improving fishing on ONLY the Kenai River. Then Les says that "changing the board and the politicians isn't enough or the whole story." He is saying that beyond the board and politicians we ONLY need his three points.

We have been dealing with the same type of political and Board of Fish process for over 50 years and look where it has got us? Obviously the system has failed our kings and Les is claiming that all we need to do is add on his three points to fix EVERYTHING.

You don't see Les saying that his ideas will bring back the king salmon in the Kenai, let alone the whole state? Go back and read the story again. Les is claiming that his three points will fix everything. All we have to do is stop all fishing in and around Cook Inlet and NOT in and around The Gulf of Alaska.

It is totally impossible to address a Gulf of Alaska commercial trawler problem or a statewide king salmon problem by shutting down fishing in the Cook Inlet area. The only way Les could possibly justify this articles points, is for him to now publish a hundred stories about the Pollock trawlers destroying our kings. Does anyone out there really think that is going to happen?

mikehu
143
Points
mikehu 06/02/14 - 02:50 pm
0
1
The commercial salmon nets

The commercial salmon nets have been there for decades and the king salmon did okay. As noted above I see the gouging of the spawning beds making the biggest difference, too much pressure for too long, not to mention habitat destruction. There are enough salmon for everybody, heck, reds and silvers are pretty good eating fish as well. The commercial people only basically fish a month, and their fishery is very controlled by the biologists, who in their own right get little thanks for the great job they've historically done. We now have a billion dollar industry waiting on a few kings. If they shut the in river king fishing down, they would probably come back. That worked in the sixties when they shut commercial king inlet fishing down for good during king season in June. Oh sure they caught a few kings in their red gear, but it wasn't enough to keep them from coming back. Besides the commercial people have already been squeezed down to practically nothing. There were enough kings before the heavy fishing of the river and the commercial fishermen have been here all along.

kenai123
1312
Points
kenai123 06/03/14 - 01:28 am
1
0
miikehu that is a nice opinion but it is not backed up by facts

First Miikehu you are wrong, our Cook Inlet king salmon have NOT "did okay" anytime they were forced to pick their way through a maze of gill nets.

Second you are wrong again because you have not seen any "gouging" of any spawning beds anywhere because it does not exist anywhere except in your mind.

Third you are wrong again because there are not enough salmon for commercial fishermen. Salmon and cash are the same thing for commercial fishing. We all know that there is no such thing as "enough money" therefore there also is no such thing as "enough fish".

Fourth you are wrong again because commercial fishermen do not "basically fish a month". Kodiak commercial gill netting begin hammering Cook Inlet salmon the first week of June. Cook Inlet nets join in the destruction near the end of June and both areas continue until mid August. That's two and a half months and takes in the bulk of the ENTIRE salmon season. That is not a month.

Fifth you are wrong again because our commercial fisheries are not "very controlled by the biologists" because our biologists and the ADF&G knew about the heavy increase in king by-catch in the Gulf of Alaska from 1990 - 2007 but they made no attempt to even inform our fish managers who are suppose to be regulating them.

Sixth you are wrong again because we do not have "a billion dollar industry waiting on a few kings". We have an entire state waiting on all of our king runs statewide. We have multi-billion dollar tourist and business related industries waiting on dozens of king runs around the state. The Karluk River, the Ayakulik River, the Chignik River, the Sapasuk River, the Kuskokwim River, the Unuk River, the Stikine River, the Taku River, the Copper River. Miikehu you do not understand what you are talking about on this issue.

Seventh you are wrong again when you claim that "the commercial people have already been squeezed down to practically nothing". The term "squeezed down to nothing" is meaningless when commercial gear efficiency can be increase without anyone being aware of the impact on kings. This is what happened in the Gulf of Alaska from 1990 - 2007, king by-catch skyrocketed while our fisheries managers were not looking. The term "squeezed down" is meaningless when you can catch MORE when you're "squeezed down".

Eight you are wrong again when you claim that commercial fishing has somehow been around longer than any other fishery use. All of our many fisheries uses began together within subsistence fishing. This general use mixed personal use, commercial use and even recreational use into one use. It is only recently that people have tried to separate the uses and make people fight for a single use.

Miikehu you are wrong about kings doing okay while trying to get through a maze of gill nets. Wrong about spawning beds being gouged, let's see ya prove that one. Wrong about there being enough fish for everyone because that does not happen in commercial fishing. Wrong about commercial fishing happening for a month. Wrong about commercial fishing being controlled by the biologists, if that were true why did all our kings get by-catch hammered in the Gulf? Wrong about a billion dollar industry waiting on a few kings, when we all know it's a statewide king problem with many billions of dollars on the line that have NOTHING to do with commercial fishing. Wrong about commercial people being squeezed down to nothing because today's "commercial nothing" can kill more fish than yesterdays "commercial something". And finally wrong about commercial fishing somehow being around longer than any other type of use when we all know that the uses began together.

Basically Miikehu your opinion is wrong on just about every point that you raised, so much for opinion right? Maybe you should try using a few facts next time.

mikehu
143
Points
mikehu 06/02/14 - 06:51 pm
1
1
A lifetime of observation and

A lifetime of observation and experience led me to those opinions. History shows inclines and declines in the salmon resource and until there was a sports industry that reached the size it did, escapement was adequate enough for a viable economic base. I lived it. By the way my complements to cogency and form.

Back to Top

Spotted

Please Note: You may have disabled JavaScript and/or CSS. Although this news content will be accessible, certain functionality is unavailable.

Skip to News

« back

next »

  • title http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321268/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321253/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321248/
  • title http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321243/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321208/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/320593/
  • title http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321173/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321163/
My Gallery

CONTACT US

  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS