Emergency order: Commercial nets pulled

Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2009

Commercial fishing is once again closed today for all fisheries that harvest Kenai River sockeye salmon.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued the emergency order Wednesday.

Jeff Fox, Fish and Game manager of Upper Cook Inlet commercial fisheries, said the department is on the cusp of being able to fish, however, should commercial fishing be allowed, the escapement goal likely won't be reached.

Because of this year's run size, which is projected to be less than 2 million, Kenai's in-river goal is between 650,000 and 850,000.

Fox also said there's a chance the goal won't be reached by halting commercial fishing days, but Fish and Game is hopeful it will.

"As soon as we can project making the escapement goal with fishing, we'll fish," he said. "Right now, it's touch and go.

"We could fish by Friday, we'll see," he added. "It just depends on what happens between now and then."

Fox said the end of a run typically brings fewer fish, so escapement numbers are down, forcing the department to shut down commercial fishing to make its goal.

Fish and Game has never made its escapement goal by continuing to fish as normal when the size of the run is similar to the one seen this year. The department has had mixed success by closing the fisheries, Fox said.

He said Fish and Game is close to achieving its goal for this season.

But it's not all bad news for commercial fishermen.

Fox said a southwest wind has started blowing in the area, which could increase the run.

"If there's fish there, they'll come into the river today," Fox said. "Hopefully that will change things."

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.

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