‘Enemy within’ to blame for jeopardy of fish runs

Posted: Monday, November 06, 2006

I read Wes Humbyrd’s “who done it letter”, on Oct. 27th, 2006. He claimed a bunch of nonsense about our fisheries being all messed up because of when Tony Knowles was governor.

Tony did a lot of dumb things but messing up our fisheries was not one of them. Mr. Humbyrd’s Kenai River “over escapement” comments are truly outrageous. He appears to have no idea what the Kenai’s maximum sockeye escapement is. Kenai stocks have been so manipulated by the commercial fishing industry for 30 years, that there is no way to get a true picture of maximum Kenai escapement for any run. Mr. Humbyrd’s claim that future Cook Inlet sockeye runs are in jeopardy may however be correct, but who’s to blame? I claim it is more like the enemy within.

It is a small miracle that we still have any Cook Inlet fisheries left at all with the constant barrage of (Alaska Department of Fish and Game) commercial fishing, emergency orders dumped on our wild Cook Inlet salmon.

Excess commercial fishing may be survivable for an enhanced salmon run like our sockeye, but it is not survivable for non-enhanced runs like our wild Kenai king’s. This kind of a degenerative fisheries management cycle can be repaired each year with artificial replacement salmon through stockings. When wild stocks endure this same type of management, the damage cannot be repaired because the ADF&G lacks the ability to stock wild salmon. I claim that it is this ADF&G inability which sets up the declining trends Mr. Humbyrd speaks of.

Wild stocks are the only fish we will be fishing for in the distant future. This is because all enhanced stocks will be dead and gone in the future. A single bug or uncontrollable factor will have wiped out all genetically similar stocks.

Mr. Humbyrd concern about declining stocks can be removed by glancing at the stable sonar numbers the ADF&G will parade in front of him. The ADF&G will just leave out the part about the bulk of the numbers being enhanced stocks. If you believe what is being sold here, eventually all wild stocks will be replaced by enhanced stocks. It may take decades to happen, but like a slow train it will eventually get to where it is going.

We should be more concerned with maintaining genetically diverse stocks, than making sure anyone makes a profit. The health of Cook Inlet is more important than any temporary economic damage fishermen may be forced to live with. I claim we should only use a fisheries management procedures if our genetically weakest stocks can survive them.

So you see Wes, it’s not Tony, even though I wish it were. It’s not even that nasty old Alaska Board of Fisheries. It is folks who only see the bus after it runs them over. Are you really so certain that our fisheries problems originate outside of your commercial ranks or could it be the enemy within?

Don Johnson


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