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Thread: Take 2: New regulatory ideas for Kenai kings . .

  1. #1
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    Default Take 2: New regulatory ideas for Kenai kings . .

    The initial thread on this very important subject seems hopelessly mired, so may we try again from a fresh start?

    Doc started the discussion with some initial ideas:

    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    . . One of the concepts touted by in-river users is the strategy of commercial "windows" to give the fish a chance to escape into the river. Shouldn't the same concept apply in the river to get more fish to the gravel? Even the Creator had the wisdom to dedicate one day of "rest" for the week. Doesn't our beloved Kenai deserve as much? How about two? More?

    . . I'm talking in generalities here, but we need a different paradigm that starts off very conservative EVERY year until we have a better idea of the run-size we are dealing with inseason. If it looks decent, EO a conservative step up in a week or two. Looks better yet a week later? EO another more liberal step up. Looks like a gangbuster year, then EO a fully liberalized fishery to take advantage of the windfall.

    Applying a more precautionary approach, I proposed something along these lines leading up to the 2003 BOF. Recall in 2002 that the ER was packaged to go C&R for most of the season. But locals were enraged by the fact that they would be denied a king for the dinner plate while rich tourists were free to play with "their" food. Perception or reality, it really didn't matter.... C&R as a baseline conservation strategy was soundly rejected and subsequently rescinded. I still doubt it is something that would fly today.

    But what about starting the season with a baseline of in-river "windows" superimposed on the existing bait ban and slot limit. As the run unfolds, ADFG either stays the course, or renders an EO to further restrict or appropriately liberalize the fishery. Unless the run is totally in the crapper, the risk of a more restrictive EO is slim. Over time it's more likely that they would issue EO's to liberalize instead. I think this is a more reasoned approach than the one being promoted by all the "shutter down" dudes.

    Look... before anyone starts throwing darts, this is NOT some conspiracy against the sport camp. Just trying to get a discussion going on strategies to tread a little lighter on the resource while still having some semblance of a rec fishery.

    Please feel free to add more ideas. Let's keep it civil and keep the flames down to a simmer.... fair enough?
    KRSA offered a new perspective on the overescapement issue as it affects management policy:
    Overescapement Fears of Imminent Kenai Sockeye Collapse Fail to Materialize

    By Ray Beamesderfer, Senior Scientist, Cramer Fish Sciences

    As the 2011 Kenai sockeye run continues to pour into Cook Inlet, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has upgraded the run estimate to at least 6.7 million, which is well above the preseason forecast of 3.9 million. This will be the largest Kenai sockeye run in almost 20 years since the 8 million seen in 1992. Commercial, personal use, and sport fishers on the Kenai are all enjoying the bountiful return.
    Five years ago, this year's big Kenai sockeye return was just about the last thing many people were predicting. Three straight years of large spawning escapements from 2004 to 2006 led to warnings of a pending run collapse due to "overescapement." Fears were fueled by record low fry numbers and small fry body sizes in annual monitoring of Skilak and Kenai Lake rearing areas.
    To everybody's relief, dire predictions of sockeye run failures have not materialized. This year's big run has turned what we thought we knew about Kenai sockeye population dynamics on its head. We are going to need a new Kenai escapement goal model.

    The "overescapement" theory was based on research following the last sequence of big escapements which occurred in 1987-1989. These high historical escapements resulted from high ocean survival and fishery closures in 1989 courtesy of the Exxon Valdez. Mediocre returns four to six years later were attributed to small smolt sizes and poor survival due to increased competition among the large numbers of fry produced by these large escapements. Successive large escapements were also believed to depress production in subsequent years due to lingering impacts of overgrazing of the zooplankton food base. This research led to the development by ADF&G scientists of the celebrated "Brood-Year Interaction Model" for the Kenai sockeye spawner-recruit relationship. This model was the basis for predictions of run collapse when a sequence of large escapements was repeated.
    Fears of "overescapement" subsequently dominated management of Cook Inlet commercial fisheries for two decades. Management to avoid exceeding Kenai sockeye upper end goals effectively began to trump concerns for smaller, less productive, less valuable, or less intensively-monitored species and stocks - a classic mixed stock fishery problem. In the white-hot cauldron of Cook Inlet salmon allocation battles, "overescapement" also somehow morphed into a pseudo-biological justification for maximizing commercial fishery harvest and allocation.
    Fish per fish, the Kenai run was already one of the most productive sockeye stocks in the world. Intensive commercial fisheries were prosecuted to harvest the surplus and avoid the catastrophic consequences of "overescapement." Corresponding exploitation rates on Kenai sockeye were among the highest in Alaska.
    High commercial sockeye exploitation came at the expense of many of the other fish runs and fisheries in the inlet. The July commercial set net fishery harvested a major share of Kenai and Kasilof kings despite a sport fish priority these fish. Abrupt openings of commercial fisheries by emergency order unpredictably disrupted delivery of salmon to the rivers, keeping personal use and sport fisheries off balance and substantially reducing in-river opportunity. Interception of the front end of the coho run greatly curtailed early fisheries in northern inlet streams. Weaker runs of sockeye returning to the Susitna were impacted to the point of listing them as a stock of concern. Effects on unmonitored stocks like Kasilof kings were unknown but likely substantial.
    This year's salmon run finally provided an opportunity to empirically test the scientific validity of the "overescapement" theory and its brood-year interaction model. If correct, this year's Kenai run, which was produced by successive high escapements from 2004 to 2007, should have been substantially less than the recent average of 3.6 million sockeye. However, this year's bumper run is three or more times greater than the theory predicted.
    High escapements have not produced poor returns. Kenai sockeye production continues to exceed replacement levels even at escapements well above current goals. In fact, maximum production levels may be significantly higher than previously estimated, as was found to be the case for Kasilof sockeye when their old goals were tested with higher escapements.
    These results illustrate that while sockeye run sizes are related to spawning escapement, they also depend on a variety of other factors. That is why salmon run size in any given year is so difficult to forecast. This year's surprisingly big run also reminds us fish scientists that we don't always know quite as much about these fish as we sometimes think we do.
    Results also have significant implications for the management of this year's sockeye fishery over the rest of the season. The fishery managers are facing a dilemma. The Kenai sockeye run size is headed over the top end of their escapement goals. At the same time, the Kenai late-run kings are in danger of failing to meet their minimum goals. If commercial fisheries go full throttle in the next couple weeks in an attempt to limit sockeye escapements, there is a good chance that the additional kings they intercept will place the minimum king escapement goals in jeopardy (even despite emergency restrictions on in-river personal use and sport fisheries to reduce their king catch).
    So what do you do when you can't avoid going over the sockeye goals without missing the king goals? The answer is that you strike an optimum balance that weighs the respective risks. This year's big sockeye run indicates that going over the past sockeye goals is not as big a deal as has been previously represented. On the other hand, fish scientists almost universally recognize the risks inherent in low escapements. Conservation-minded fish management will almost always prioritize the bottom goals over the tops.
    We will continue to provide updates daily and through the day if necessary as this season plays out. All updates will be posted at the
    Kenai River Sportfishing Association website.

    Finally, today's Peninsula Clarion contains an op-ed by guide Greg Brush with yet more suggestions. Brush's ideas may be read here:

    Carry on . .

  2. #2


    Truly a Solomon's choice scenario. Some tough decisions are going to have to be made. Glad I don't have to make them as I sure don't envy those that have to, but at some point in time some tough decisions have to happen.

  3. #3
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    Default My two-cents . . .

    I think one of the first things that needs to be implemented in terms of new regulation is the limiting or outright abolishment of catch-and-release.

    Catch-and-release is, considering the horrific effort expended on the kings, the hidden killer, accounting for much more mortality and ineffective spawning than is currently imagined.

    And, yes, I know such regulation would be unpopular and hard to implement.

  4. #4
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    I must applaud Master Brush on his articulate appraisal of the Kenai King crisis. Major rep points if he was a member here.

    To bring some element of fairness to any recovery effort, each user group should be restricted in proportion to historic exploitation.

    As to Marcus idea of eliminating C&R, I don't see how that would ever fit into any recovery strategy. If a fishery of any sort is to take place, selective harvest will be a critical element. From a purely practical standpoint, we can't continue to kill 'em all, so managers will have to decide which fish are worth killing and which are not. This obligates the fishery to some element of voluntary or codified C&R.... for example slot limits, no hen retention, no retention of dark fish.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
    The KeenEye MD

  5. #5
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    Default A good effort . . .

    Sign of the times, Doc, that such acknowledgment of the problem should come from the guide quarter . . very encouraging because, as has been said, we're all in this together. Greg made a good effort to be fair.

    Be sure to scroll down and read the feedback the article is generating . . two responses so far.

    Maybe there's hope?


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