KRSA comments miss the mark

Posted: Monday, July 20, 2009

In a recent three-part KTUU-TV feature on Cook Inlet's salmon wars, Kenai River Sportfishing Association's Ricky Gease said, "Not that the commercial industry here isn't important but it's in the shadow of a giant here." Well, that's just not so. KRSA's relentless, well-funded, politicized push for more salmon into the Kenai and other Cook Inlet rivers at the expense of Cook Inlet's gill-net industry is misguided at best, disingenuous at worst.

First, it is not a contest between "sport" and "commercial," it is an allocation decision between end-user groups: those who catch their fish and those who buy their fish from restaurants and stores. Only a small percentage of end-users of our fisheries get their fish with a rod and reel. The overwhelming majority of those who eat salmon get their fish from a market or from a restaurant.

Second, KRSA disingenuously claims sport-caught fish are more valuable than commercial-caught fish, but they arrive at these voodoo economics by counting the total value of a sport-caught fish until it reaches the end-user but stop counting the value of a commercial- caught fish when it reaches the processor, ignoring thereby all the accrued economic value involved in processing, marketing, transportation, support industry, retail markets, restaurants, and more. If there's a giant here, it's the economics of the commercially-caught fish.

Third, it is sheer, economic lunacy to advocate devoting more of our fisheries resources to an industry in decline -- sport fishing -- at the expense of Cook Inlet's gill-net industry. Area sport-fishing is off this year, way off, it will be worse next year as the American economy continues to contract, and it's not coming back any time soon. The days of easy money are over.

Fourth, there is no "over-escapement debate" except in the minds of KRSA sycophants. One needn't be a rocket scientist or a hired biologist to know that you can only put so many cows on an acre of grass before compromising the next calf-crop. Common sense is all one needs to figure that out.

We shouldn't be fooled or mislead. KRSA has long advocated the decimation of Cook Inlet's gill-net industry in favor of more sport- fishing "opportunity," particularly sport-fishing opportunity for the second-run kings that accompany the late run sockeye. No, we don't need more phoney reasons to further cripple our area's economy, our area needs a healthy gill-net industry as part of a diversified economic base -- especially in these troubled and uncertain economic times.

John Nelson


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