What would happen if they wound up on the list?
What would happen if they wound up on the list?
Would have to come up with a federally-approved recovery plan accounting for all possible life history impacts to the stock.
In the PNW, the pre harvest adult production is managed with a pre-determined exploitation rate, which includes anything that directly affects pre-spawn mortality… directed harvest, incidental release mortality (dropout/C&R), and sometimes predation.
Example: ESA-listed Columbia River spring chinook are managed for about a 15% exploitation on a typical run-size. (Agency estimates another 4-5% of the run is also taken by sea lions) Tribal fishers get about 13% of the 15%, and non-tribal fishers get the other 2% (the overall split between the tribe and the state is 87:13). The state share has historically been split about 50:50 between comm and rec, but a new policy seeks to prioritize recreation with a 70:30 split starting next year.
The first step is to petition the feds for a listing. In the PNW, the smallest population that can be listed is called an Evolutionarily Significant Unit or ESU. There are 13 ESU's listed for the Columbia River… 4 for chinook (LR falls, Snake spring/summer, Snake falls, UR springs), 1 for coho (LR coho), 1 for chum (CR chum), 1 for sockeye (Snake sockeye), 4 for steelhead (LR, MR, UR, and Snake), and 2 for bull trout or what you guys call "dollies" (CR and Snake). As you can see, these ESU's can be designated by geography or run-timing or both.
Before anyone can petition for a listing, they would have to find out what the feds consider to be an ESU. Usually this means a population with similar genetics and life history traits adapted to a specific geographic location. So far no work has ever been done at the federal level to even make that fundamental designation for Alaska salmon population…. no federal ESU's have even been identified.
I suspect the first to make the list will be Yukon River chinook… once someone officially recognizes that population as an ESU. The one that should have been on the list years ago is the Kodiak Island chinook, principally Ayakulik/Karluk.
Kenai could be more problematic. The Kenai chinook ESU? Or should it be two? mainstem and tributary Kenai ESU's? Or should it be Cook Inlet chinook ESU? Perhaps early Cook Inlet chinook ESU and late CI chinook ESU? Or maybe the Kenai/Kasilof chinook ESU? Again no one has really even thought about this stuff with any serious consideration. I've got a pretty good local fed contact who would know, and he knows nothing.
"Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone."
The KeenEye MD
Yes, federal management of our kings would be "problematic". You hit the nail on the head Doc.
The economic impacts would be significant well before a listing. The ADF&G would keep the fisheries closed well before a listing for Kenai chinook. In contrast, the Susitna River sockeye could be listed as four lake systems have been taken out of production. Those sub-stocks are no longer there and the threats to the population continue.
In contrast, Kenai River chinook are more of a harvest problem and can be easily taken care of by closing fisheries.
Provocative question indeed.
A listing petition could happen at any time. All it takes is someone with a computer and a printer and some good information on the history and status of the stocks. There are no limitations on who could petition, or the amount of information necessary to support the petition. Now, I will admit that it takes alot of really good information for the petition to succeed, including the existing and potential threats. But given the amount of information on these stocks, getting the information would not be a huge problem.
But as FishDoc points out, delineating the ESU might be the biggest challenge. The petitioner would have to show that UCI Chinook are unique, and important to the long-term viability of the species (range-wide). But if the lower Columbia River Chinook can be an ESU (which it is), my guess is the UCI Chinook could be an ESU too.
The biggest "threat" from an ESA listing is the possibility that the State might lose the ability to manage the fishery. My sense is that a successful ESA listing petition would be an enormous embarassment to the State of Alaska. Losing their ability to manage the Kenai River Chinook fishery, to the Feds, would be more than they want to think about. Seems like a really good reason for them to take the necessary actions to ensure a petition is never filed, or if one is filed, it won't be successful because of the conservation actions they're taking. My sense is that NOW is a good time for the State to take the necessary actions......
I would also echo what FishDoc said about the Yukon Rv and the Kodiak Island stocks (Karluk/Ayakulik). They are in far worse shape than the Kenai, and have been for awhile. If someone wants to file a petition, and be successful, they ought not start with the Kenai. They should start with these two other stocks. I'm sorta surprised it hasn't happened already.
I too am surprised that no one has filed a listing. I think in Alaska everyone is afraid of what that would do given the other endangered species listings.
FamilyMan - I had nothing to do with the question but I must tell you I filled out the paperwork on Susitna and have it ready to go. Just waiting to see if ADF&G is going to be serious about dealing with the issue. If not at this Board meeting I probably will take the time to file it. We have the genetic data in detail, have populations of Susitna River sockeye that show four lakes systems are gone, have the distribution of pike in the drainage and other issues detailed, and have little action by the State to deal with the issue. So if action is not taken soon a petition will be on the door of the Federal agencies.
The State does a good job of managing people but long term resource management is a failure in most situation. There is no desire to look at habitat issues, ecological relationships, or other biological attributes. It is a harvest oriented agency in UCI and Kodiak. If not for the Feds the Yukon would be in the same state - little information and no desire to get it.
Bold move Nerka. Best of luck if you decide to move ahead. As stated, your biggest hurdle might be demonstrating that Susitna sockeye are unique, and are important to the survival of the species (range-wide). Don't underestimate the difficulty of doing that. Once you clear that hurdle, you need to demonstrate signficant decline in the stocks, and substantial, unaddressed threats to the continued existence of the stocks. Both are achievable, but neither are easy to prove. Plus, you have to deal with the remarkable, but normal, intransigence of NMFS.
Again, best of luck........
So far the State has lost most if not all court cases fighting ESA listings - polar bears, beluga whales, seals, ..... we will see.
Nerka, do you really think if Susitna sockeye were listed that the central district drift gill net would be unaffected?
IF Kenai kings were put on the endangered specie list. You could driver to Anchorage in 4hrs all summer long. You could buy property and houses cheep from Anchorage to Homer. Boats would be parked for miles along the road with for sale signs.
PS. KRSA would be pissed.
I'm no conservation biologist but given their very unique characteristics (namely, size), I'd be quite shocked if the Kenai kings couldn't qualify as at least a single ESU.
"Fishing relaxes me. It's like yoga, except I still get to kill something." --Ron Swanson
As of now there is not the size of yesteryear! The Kenai has the same problem other larger rivers, and that is to many other streams and rivers that feed it with their own run of kings with different genetics.
The biggest teeth in the ESA are the prohibition of take and the requirement for consultation on actions which might jeopardize the species or it's critical habitat. Recovery plans by themselves are guidance documents that actually don't obligate anybody to do anything. And then there's the giant federal bureaucracy created to deal with all this.
The chinook that enter into the Kenai in June are in trouble and yet the State refuses to even look at spawner distribution in the management actions. Pretty sad situation if you are a resource manager and see the lack of professional standards in ADF&G leadership right now.
More grist for the mill......
If Kenai Rv or UCI Chinook were ESA listed, it's likely the entire recreational sport fishery for Chinook salmon on the Kenai Rv would cease completely, while the ESSN fishery might continue (if the ESSNetters play their cards correctly). Here's why. The recreational fishery is what called "direct take" in ESA parlance. That is, they are focusing their harvest efforts directly on the listed entity (Chinook salmon). Direct take is not allowed under the ESA (duh).
However, the ESSNetters could make the claim that they're only targeting sockeye salmon, not Chinook. As such, those activities could be allowed under an "incidental take" permit or statement (ESA terms). That is, "incidental take" of the listed entity can be authorized (not the right term) if the activity is otherwise lawful and is not intended to harm the listed entity. But that would only happen if the ESSNetters claim they are targeting sockeye, not Chinook. If they say they are targeting both sockeye and Chinook, they're outta luck, since they are now engaging in direct take, same as the recreational anglers. So they need to play their cards correctly. And it wouldn't hurt to play those cards NOW. That is, they should insist they're activities are only intended to catch sockeye, and that they are taking all necessary means to avoid taking Chinook. An historical record demonstrating this would be very advantageous. However, no matter how hard the recreational anglers may argue otherwise, they are targeting Chinook salmon. No doubt about it. Also, C&R is still direct take. It's no different than C&K.
Things change on the Kasilof however. Since the Kasilof has a robust hatchery Chinook population at Crooked Creek, the recreational anglers could claim they are targeting hatchery Chinook. If those hatchery Chinook were 100% marked, they might be okay under an incidental take permit. But they would need to released all unmarked Chinook. But as I recall, they are required to now. The ESSNetters argument would be the same as on the Kenai.
Bottomline: The State of Alaska should take all conservations actions necessary to protect their fishery resources throughout the State to avoid the potential for an ESA listing. The resulting quagmire is something they should avoid at all costs.
And it ought not take some knucklehead from Vancouver, WA to tell them that.