Do we really want more tourist dollars?

Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Recently, I noticed the debate over funding the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council. Proponents maintain we need to market the Kenai Peninsula by directing funding to the KPTMC by our tax dollars to insure a healthy tourism economy.

First, our state sponsored tourism study indicated about 70 percent of the tourists visiting the Kenai Peninsula were interested in sport fishing here. Another state study indicated one sport-caught king salmon was worth about $800 to $1,000 to our local economy. Secondly, our king and silver salmon fisheries have been seriously depleted due to mismanagement; these fisheries use to be healthy and greatly fueled the local economy. Thirdly, we must demand the restoration of these fisheries if we really desire to revive our tourism economy. If we have the healthy king and silver salmon runs like we experienced in the late 1970s and early 1980s we will have no shortage of tourist dollars.

What caused the depletion of these runs of salmon? As a professional fishing guide for over 30 years on the Kenai River I have monitored the mismanagement of our king and silver salmon fisheries. We have not had proper management of our commercial fisheries in the saltwater -- we have allowed overharvest. Now the question is when will we admit the problem, and when will we demand adequate king and silver salmon escapement numbers into the Kenai and Kasilof rivers?

J.K. "Kenai Jim" Johnson, Soldotna

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