Emergency order restricts driftnets to ''corridor''

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- The state has issued an emergency order closing most of Cook Inlet to commercial driftnet salmon fishing.

The use of drift gillnets during Monday's 12-hour opening is restricted to the Kenai and Kasilof sections of the upper subdistrict. That's an area also known as ''the corridor.'' It extends roughly 40 miles, from the Colliers Dock in Nikiski to a mile north of the Ninilchik River.

The restriction is meant to increase the escapement of red salmon to the north end of Cook Inlet, said Jeff Fox, area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

''This is basically to usher northern bound Susitna River fish,'' he told the Peninsula Clarion.

The emergency order does not apply to setnetters.

The state has had problems meeting Susitna River escapement goals in recent years, Fox said.

The number of red salmon that had made it up the Yentna River, a tributary of the Susitna, as of Saturday was only 1,740 fish, officials said.

Kenai River escapement as of Saturday stood at 22,618 fish, while the Kasilof had seen a return of 99,704 reds.

Bob Merchant, president of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and a driftnetter, said the price per pound for sockeye was running 85 cents, which was higher than during the last opening on July 3.

''As long as that trend continues, we should be at the price we want in a week or two,'' Merchant said. ''We are hoping for over a dollar.''

Rob Williams, president of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association, said fish prices were running 80 cents a pound for setnetters.

''Nobody is very happy with that price at all,'' Williams said.

But with the Bristol Bay sockeye run tapering off, fishermen are expecting the price of red salmon to rise, he said.

''We are really hoping the price is going to go up very soon,'' Williams said.

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