The ADF&G released a memo as RC7 at the Board of Fish meeting in Anchorage that revised the late run Kenai River chinook salmon escapement estimates for 2010 and 2011.
After subtracting estimates of harvest and mortality above the sonar (7026 in 2010; 6240 in 2011), the corresponding estimates of escapement are 26600 in 2010 (CI 13,100 -49,100) and 29,800 in 2011 (CI 16,100 - 51,900). Although the point estimates are within the escapement goal in both cases, considering the uncertainty in the predicted TS based estimates, there is a probability of 12% (2010) and 4% (2011) that the TS-based estimate would have led to an escapement estimate less than the goal (17,800) in those years.
Before we jump on ADF&G the release of these new estimates took some courage on ADF&G part and they should be given due respect for doing so. They could have waited until after the Board meeting as this RC throws a major monkey wrench into KRSA ACR request based on conservation concerns. These new numbers cannot make that position defensible from ADF&G viewpoint. In fact, the local biologist for Sport Fish Division has stated that there is no conservation concern.
Now having said that the inseason management decisions based on faulty numbers needs to be examined. An emergency orders were issued that impacted all user groups and created conflict in the community. Therefore, at this point I think ADF&G should ask the legislature for money for an totally independent review of the whole Kenai River chinook salmon sonar counting project - from the site to sonar to the netting program to catch sampling and creel census. That review should be done by a panel of experts in various fields and it should be done before next season.
There is too much of an economic impact associated with the uncertainty in the present counting system. While I think ADF&G is trying to do the right thing with this memo they are missing the larger picture which is having a credible counting system. So far they are not moving fast enough in that direction. A new sonar counter at a bad counting site will not solve this problem.