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:
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?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?
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?