Series examines Cook Inlet salmon

Posted: Sunday, July 08, 2001

In the prehistory of the Kenai River, it must have been simple.

People caught salmon, preserved them and ate them -- end of story.

Then fisheries grew complicated. There were saltries, then canneries, and an export economy based on fish once caught only for subsistence.

Commercial fishing defined the area from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Then came oil.

The population grew, and so did sport fishing and tourism, competing for limited supplies of fish. The state substituted "personal use" for much of what use to be "subsistence," then found itself in conflict with federal law.

It's not simple anymore.

Sport fishers on the Kenai River swear at commercial nets offshore. Commercial fishers say they don't have enough of a season to make a living anymore. Subsistence fishers say they've largely been cut out.

People argue all year over salmon, but the history, fisheries and politics are nearly too complicated to understand. Over the next two weeks, the Clarion will examine where we came from, how we got here, and what the future may hold. That will not settle the debates, of course, but it may add some perspective.

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