When Bob Dylan sang "The Times They Are A-Changin,'" he wasn't thinking about Alaska's fisheries, but he could have been.
Over the past few years and at an accelerating pace, the traditional, non-wasteful harvest of Alaska's fish resources by residents is being displaced by the nontraditional use of Alaska's fish resources by nonresidents. And all for the almighty dollar.
During the recent Board of Fisheries meetings on Cook Inlet, a Kenai River guide exclaimed, "The Kenai is so special it shouldn't just be treated as another meat fishery." Fellow guide and Kenai River Sportfishing Association executive director Brett Huber agrees: "Perhaps it's time to treat this like other trophy fisheries, like we do with the rainbow trout."
Brett Huber wants us to believe that catch-and-release fishing for trophy fish is noble, somehow "above" the traditional "meat" fishing Alaskans have practiced for ages. Huber would have us believe catch-and-release trophy fishing is better for the fish. But is catch-and-release trophy fishing noble, or even better? Is it the right thing to do for the fish?
Consider the upper river rainbow trout fishery, the fishery Huber holds up as an example worth imitating in other fisheries like the first run of Kenai kings. According to Fish and Game figures, the upper Kenai hosts a population of about 25,000 rainbow. In 2000, there were 78,000 rainbows caught and released.
That means each trout was caught on average a little more than three times during the fishing season. At a mortality rate of 5 percent, 3,900 of those 78,000 trout died, and at 1 pound each, that's 3,900 pounds of dead meat wasted. Moreover, 5 percent of the rainbows in the river have only one eye. Of the 6-year-old trout that comprise about 25 percent of the population, 85 percent of them have some degree of mouth damage from being hooked.
This is how Brett Huber wants to treat the first run of Kenai kings, or in his own words, "like we do ... the rainbow trout."
Brett Huber has been nominated to the Board of Fisheries by Gov. Tony Knowles, but Huber should not be confirmed by the Legislature. Huber's vision for Alaska's fisheries would continue to displace the traditional, non-wasteful harvest of our fish resources in favor of the tourist-oriented sport fishing industry while turning Alaska's fisheries into a mockery of the state's wanton waste laws.
Huber's idea of fishery management as evidenced by his plan for the first-run kings would increasingly divert the salmon best used on Alaska's tables into the pocketbooks of the tourist sportfishing industry.
Call your legislators and urge them to vote no on Huber's confirmation.: Sens. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof (800-964-5733), Jerry Ward, R-Nikiski (465-3766), and Reps. Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna (800-463-2693), Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski (800-469-3779), and Drew Scalzi, R-Homer (800-665-2689).
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