Real change in Cook Inlet would be regulating guides, dipnetters

Posted: Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Your editorial in Friday's paper needs some correcting. I take issue with your conclusion, which was I should look to the future and not at the past glory days of full nets and high prices. I am looking to the future and I see full nets and higher prices. This year was a good example. We caught a lot of fish. The price wasn't higher, but we made money. Why? Because we got to fish many more days! Why don't you emphasize that? What good is the Kenai Wild program if we don't get to fish? As soon as we can't supply the demand, the market will be gone to some other region in the state.

The Knowles Board of Fish under Dan Coffee and Dr. White, along with the rest of the 7-0 board, are to blame for the state of the fishing industry in Cook Inlet, not the quality of our fish or the price. Why don't we have the processing capacity we used to have with all the jobs that go with it? Not enough fish and a regulatory environment that discouraged any investment in Cook Inlet, that's why.

I am also looking to the future in terms of the present Board of Fish. Hopefully, they will start to reverse the devastation caused by their predecessors.

Indeed, change is hard to accept. But the ones that have to accept the change are the guides on the river who need to be limited in some way and the dipnetters who should dipnet only when there is a surplus of fish after the commercial fishermen have exercised their constitutionally-mandated right to make a living. That was one of the reasons limited entry was instituted. There were too many fishermen. The same is true of the guides. If there were fewer guides on the river, they would have greater success for their clients because there would be less competition. As it is now, they want to do away with commercial fishing so they would have more success. That is wrong and illegal.

Dipnetting started when there was a surplus of fish that the commercial fishermen, for whatever reason, were unable to catch. Now, dipnetting takes priority over commercial fishing. This is where the change has to take place. Dipnetting should occur only after the minimum escapement goal is projected to be met. Commercial fishing should not be curtailed to ensure that there is a surplus for dipnetting unless commercial fishermen are compensated for this surplus they have to forego. Yes, dear editor, change will be hard to accept.

Steve Vanek


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