Many ideas needed to ensure healthy fishing industry

Posted: Tuesday, December 07, 2004

At present, many new ideas are expressed within the text of more than 300 proposals on Cook Inlet that will be addressed at the Board of Fish meeting in Anchorage in January.

In Cook Inlet, there is an abundance of early reds, kings and late cohos. There is easy access to the road system transportation links. There could be the same fishery as Copper River with the right marketing and management; gillnets are gillnets.

In Cook Inlet, the commercial fishery has been limited for more than three decades. Guides are not limited. Dipnetters are not limited. Non residents are not limited. The Kenai River wake study remains incomplete. Habitat for in-river spawners has been reduced by more than 10 percent. Hydrocarbon pollution from outboard motors has spiked to more than 10,000 gallons a summer. Current management plans create waste and over escapement in Skilak Lake has rendered the smallest smolt in the state at .6 grams. Survival is questionable at this small size.

In Cook Inlet, management plans create waste and embrace mandatory closures during the peak of runs when fish are present and of good quality.

Let's talk about the future. Consider flexible biological management based on abundance. Consider commercial fishing openings earlier, later and when fish are present. Consider escapement goals that will not lead to waste where a large harvestable surplus dies up-river to the benefit of no user group.

Finally, the use of the word change in your editorial is a club-like euphemism that only serves to fuel an inflammatory dialogue and offers no solutions. The very future of programs like Kenai Wild depends on getting quality fish over the course of the entire run. Management plans that create waste and contain mandatory closures when fish are abundant certainly do not speak well to the future. What is your vision of the future? Does it include more guides, blacktop, visitors, dipnet carcasses and latte stands on the river banks; or does it include a vibrant coastal economy where all industries are regulated to flourish?

John McCombs

Ninilchik



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