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Thread: Re-prioritizing Cook Inlet's, mixed-stock fisheries—yes or no?

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    Question Re-prioritizing Cook Inlet's, mixed-stock fisheries—yes or no?

    It has been asserted here that ADF&G's current model of Kenai River sockeye salmon production is flawed in that it is incapable of predicting sockeye returns based on current escapement goals. No one contends that overescapement—that the ecosystem can support only a finite number of fish before yields crash—doesn't exist, only that current estimates of what constitutes overescapement are wrong and that the ecosystem can support more escapement before yielding diminishing returns.

    If we grant the above to be true, that the Kenai River can indeed support greater numbers of sockeye on the spawning beds before yields decrease, we left with the following question:

    If we can get past self-serving selection of questionable biological models with a desired allocation implication, we can get to the heart of the real discussion which is how do you want to butter the area's economic and social bread with the harvestable sockeye, kings, and cohos you've got to spend?

    Do you want to spend as many as you can in the commercial fisheries? How many do you want to share with the personal use guys? What is a desirable level of sport fishing? What is the optimum balance among all these competing uses? Is it the status quo? Is it the good old days? Is it something different?
    Which brings us to the topic of this thread, the possible re-prioritizing of Cook Inlet's, mixed-stock fisheries. The old model, with it's predictions of diminishing returns past current escapement levels, necessitates heavy emphasis on the gill-net fishery as the main tool available to prevent overescapement. A new model would likely suggest escapement levels can be much higher, thereby reducing the necessity of the gill-nets. If more sockeye can be let up the river without fear of diminishing returns, why not?

    It needs to be made clear here that we're talking only about the second run of Kenai River sockeye and the river's concurrent, second run of Kenai kings.

    Bottom line: If we suddenly find ourselves no longer dependent on the gill-net fishery as the tool necessary to prevent overescapement, what do we want to do with all those extra fish, which could be let into the river? Should we let it rip? Or should we retain the current allocative mix? Can anyone come up with compelling reasons—economic, biological, or social—why we should abandon our current allocative mix and let more sockeye/kings into the river for the sake of the sport-fishery?

    Personally, I think our current allocative mix does a good job of serving the various interests groups using the second sockeye/king run in the Kenai. It's my opinion that allowing more second-run sockeye/kings into the Kenai would be detrimental socially and economically even if not biologically.

    How indeed might we wish to butter our area's economic and social bread?

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    "Personally, I think our current allocative mix does a good job of serving the various interests groups using the second sockeye/king run in the Kenai"

    I respectfully disagree, Marcus. The main issue I have is a non-selective net fishery being used as the key management tool to achieve a desired escapement result (no matter what that escapement level may be which is debatable). The allocative question is purely a social/economic question, and must be resolved using those parameters by all users. And as we have seen in the recent Fed budget debate (which is also a social/economic question) there are no easy or sure fire answers.

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    Default How to fix it . .

    Quote Originally Posted by NorcalBob View Post
    "Personally, I think our current allocative mix does a good job of serving the various interests groups using the second sockeye/king run in the Kenai"

    I respectfully disagree, Marcus. The main issue I have is a non-selective net fishery being used as the key management tool to achieve a desired escapement result (no matter what that escapement level may be which is debatable). The allocative question is purely a social/economic question, and must be resolved using those parameters by all users. And as we have seen in the recent Fed budget debate (which is also a social/economic question) there are no easy or sure fire answers.
    Thanks, Bob. The gill-net fishery, while not as selective as we might like it to be, is somewhat selective due to mesh size. However, if the gill-nets are to be accused of non-selectivity, mightn't the sport-fishery be accused of non-selectivity as well? Many a Kenai rainbow and dolly float downstream, belly-up, and many more swim around with one eye and pieces of their faces missing, all attesting to the non-selectivity of the sport-fishery. Not to mention all the slot-limit kings killed by c&r because sport-fishing isn't selective enough to exclude them from being caught in the first place.

    Be that as it may, in what way do you see the gill-nets offending the current allocative mix, and how would you suggest remedying the offense?

    Second, if sockeye escapement goals are liberalized in the future, how would you re-prioritize (or not) the current allocative mix?

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    Actually, I was unable to continue my previous post because a more pressing and interesting activity was brought to my attention by my wife! ;>}
    So, I will now continue to explain my thoughts and also address the additional issues you raised. My personal belief is the Kenai fishery is managed with a very sockeye centric agenda, dominated by commercial interests (and there's nothing wrong with commercial interests). But, as a result of that, that leads to a situation whereby from a realistic standpoint, gill nets are really the best economically viable alternative for harvest in a commercial situation. Personally, I am not fond of gill nets due to their non-selective nature. And yes, there is a certain amount of selectivity in gill nets in specifying mesh size, but non-targeted catch is still an issue, IMNSHO. That's just a personal bias of mine. I am also a sport fisherman, so of course, my personal bias is to sport fishing versus commercial activities. So therefore I advocate a more sports fishing centric allocation. From my point of view (which does not necessarily reflect any one else's point of view) I spend far more of my money sport fishing in AK (been fishing AK since the late 1980's!) than I do purchasing AK seafood (which I most certainly do), as I spend approximately $5000 annually on AK sport fishing (sometimes even more!) vice a few hundred on seafood. So from my perspective only, it is more important for AK to attract my $$$ for sport fishing purposes rather than commercial fishing purposes. As usual, YMMV!
    The rest of your questions are certainly thought provoking, but unfortunately ultimately lead to a discussion on the merits of catch & release sport fishing. And that is a can 'o worms that I don't want to open in this forum. Not because of your thoughtful inquiry, because I have certainly seen you disagree with others in a highly respectful manner, but because others here take every opportunity they can to initiate flaming wars featuring personal attacks. This is definitely a conversation I would love to continue with you personally over a cold frosty beverage, but not on a forum known for flaming wars. And just for the record only, I'm a fly fishing addict who regularly practices C&R, but I do not target salmon (for many personal & ethical issues that would agree with your own opinion) and the vast majority of the salmon I have caught incidentally in AK have ended up on the barbie.

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    Default Thanks . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by NorcalBob View Post
    . . I advocate a more sports fishing centric allocation. . . from my perspective only, it is more important for AK to attract my $$$ for sport fishing purposes rather than commercial fishing purposes. . .
    Openly and honestly stated, Bob, though we must disagree here. I would be very interested in any compelling, economic argument for a sport-fishing priority that you could advance. To my mind, such a sport-fishing priority, which must come at the expense of our gill-net industry since this is a zero-sum game, would unwisely narrow our area's economic base. And in this day and age, a narrow, economic base can spell economic suicide.

    . . [some] here take every opportunity they can to initiate flaming wars featuring personal attacks. . .
    Couldn't agree more. Why some seem addicted to answering disagreement with vituperation, ad hominem flames, and just plain nastiness is beyond me.

    . . for the record only, I'm a fly fishing addict . .
    I used to be. Spent the best years of my fishing life with an Orvis 6-weight bamboo, my own, hand-tied dry fly at the end of a 6x leader, ass-deep in Michigan's Boardman and Big Manistee Rivers for browns. Oh, how I miss it.

    "In old age, memories are like that favorite spot on the river where we sit, waiting for the last hatch of the day."

    —paraphrased from something I read years ago

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    I've come to realize that salmon are truly an act of God. It's amazing that a creature with a brain the size of a peanut can return to the spot it was born from thousands of ocean miles away. Every year biologists make predictions and the majority of the time they are off and sometimes they are way off. This year their predictions weren't even close to what returned. The Kenai was way better than they predicted and they predicted an average kasilof return, which I would say was actually below average.

    Comm. fishing is just as important to the economy as sport fishing, so hard to say which one would be better for the people if there wasn't the other one around. There is a ton of comm. fishing jobs in AK way more than sportfishing so its important to keep the comm. fishing industry healthy. I say the current sockeye escapement goals are fine where they are, but after this year you know the sportfishing groups will advocate the maximum levels be raised all in order to diminish comm. fishing time. The kenai river kings will be fine if the right in-river protection measures are taken. For whatever reason returns of AK kings all over the state aren't doing good. So the kenai is pretty much in line with the rest of the state, but while returns are struggling sportfishing should be more strictly regulated until king returns become better. Comm. fishing is already way more restricted than sportfishing with 2 mandatory closure days a week, and mostly this year east side fishermen only fished 4 days a week. Think of how many more kings could potentially escape to spawn if sportifishing was only 4 or 5 days a week.

    It will be interesting to see with the destruction of the japanese fishing fleet if king returns to Ak streams increase in a year or 2.

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    As far as economics, Marcus, we can't completely discount Penney's and others' viewpoint that putting more fish in the river will drive a stronger economic engine (in the short term) that would benefit a wide array of businesses and communities, and not just locally either. And I don't think it would have to be a zero-sum thing either, that it would have to come with an as-great or greater loss to the commfish industry, that would all depend on how many more fish were allocated to the river and away from the nets. Which would also affect what happens in the long term.

    Socially, well society is constantly changing so it's hard to understand and/or predict just what people will put up with, I was personally shocked at my first combat fishing experience on the Russian many years ago (maybe mid-90s). Maybe if it meant more fish, more real opportunity to harvest or C&R, the majority of locals and tourists and guides etc would find it more appealing than not.

    In arguing that side of things, all I'm saying is that I think a reasonable and rational argument can be made from a social and economic standpoint for more fish in the river. Granted, we don't typically hear those type of arguments, the more extremes from either side tend to get the most play, the issue then ends up polarized to where no compromise is available. Sound familiar? <grin>

    I wouldn't change how things are managed now. And of course I don't think we can just look at short term benefits in weighing these things. There really is a biological component in all this with overescapement concerns. Then there are water and habitat issues and concerns with more fish in the river equaling more people and boats etc.

    But having said that, I don't turn a deaf ear either to all those who advocate for more fish in the river and less in the nets.

    And speaking of nets, I'm off to check the whitefish net downstream, was waiting for the rainstorm to quit and looks like it has. A chilly 52 degrees.
    Cheers,

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    Thumbs down No compelling reasons . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by bushrat View Post
    As far as economics, Marcus, we can't completely discount Penney's and others' viewpoint that putting more fish in the river will drive a stronger economic engine (in the short term) that would benefit a wide array of businesses and communities, and not just locally either. And I don't think it would have to be a zero-sum thing either, that it would have to come with an as-great or greater loss to the commfish industry, that would all depend on how many more fish were allocated to the river and away from the nets. Which would also affect what happens in the long term.

    Socially, well society is constantly changing so it's hard to understand and/or predict just what people will put up with, I was personally shocked at my first combat fishing experience on the Russian many years ago (maybe mid-90s). Maybe if it meant more fish, more real opportunity to harvest or C&R, the majority of locals and tourists and guides etc would find it more appealing than not.

    In arguing that side of things, all I'm saying is that I think a reasonable and rational argument can be made from a social and economic standpoint for more fish in the river. Granted, we don't typically hear those type of arguments, the more extremes from either side tend to get the most play, the issue then ends up polarized to where no compromise is available. Sound familiar? <grin>

    I wouldn't change how things are managed now. And of course I don't think we can just look at short term benefits in weighing these things. There really is a biological component in all this with overescapement concerns. Then there are water and habitat issues and concerns with more fish in the river equaling more people and boats etc.

    But having said that, I don't turn a deaf ear either to all those who advocate for more fish in the river and less in the nets.

    And speaking of nets, I'm off to check the whitefish net downstream, was waiting for the rainstorm to quit and looks like it has. A chilly 52 degrees.
    Cheers,

    Thanks, Mark, for that perspective . . points well-noted. The last thing any of us need to do is turn a deaf ear to Penny/KRSA's argument for more second-run sockeye escapement into the Kenai.

    That said, I fully agree that a rational argument can be made for Penny/KRSA's increased-sportfishing/economic-engine-running-hard proposal. I do not believe that a reasonable argument can be made for such.

    If we grant Penny/KRSA's presuppositions—more fish equals more fishermen equals more money—then, yes, a rational argument can be made for their case. However, we must keep in mind a number of mitigating factors, the first of which is that more fishermen will come only if they can come, and with discretionary income shrinking by the minute, how much longer will they be able to come? Any area contemplating becoming overly dependent on a narrowed, economic base is taking an unreasonable risk in so doing. Ask Detroit. Ask the old rust-belt towns. Ask the Gulf coast.

    Second factor: In the end analysis, it is a zero-sum game, and whatever degree of harvest opportunity is taken from the gill-net industry and reallocated to the sport-fishery is simply a shift, not necessarily a gain. Again, such gain is premised on the hope that more fish will indeed equal more fishermen. But will it? I doubt it, and think such risk is unreasonable.

    Third factor: How much more sportfishing pressure can our lifestyle afford? How much more sportfishing pressure can the ecosystem absorb? How much more sportfishing pressure can the second run of Kenai kings afford? I think even the suggestion of such increased pressures are unreasonable.

    Yes, the Penny/KRSA push for more sockeye [read "second-run kings"] may well be rational in that it is logically and systematically consistent with its presuppositions, the Penny/KRSA push is unreasonable for the reasons noted above and more.

    If the Penny/KRSA position is to be taken seriously, given any credibility whatsoever, their partisans must advance compelling economic and social reasons for such change. Failing that, their position is nothing more than personal preference, no better and no worse than anyone else's.

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    If putting more fish on the gravel means a bigger run like we had this summer then everyone wins. Commfish, sportfish and PU fishermen all win. We have almost 1.5 million up the river this year and a very good take by all user groups. 2005 and 2006 saw over 1.5 million fish in the river. I wonder what next years run will be like. I think if all user groups got together and worked together you would see everyone win.

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