Ballot Box Biology
Is it legally possible for the residents of the state of Alaska to initiate a petition and get on the ballot, a "Prohibition of Commercial Fishing In Areas of High Competition For Available Fish Stocks"? I would support a complete closure of commercial fishing operations within Cook Inlet. This narrow strip of water supports a majority of sport and personal use fishing opportunities, yet is continually hammered by commercial fishermen. It has always been a political nightmare, never have the decisions been made with the fish stocks being of the highest priority. If this is legally possible, I feel we should get the residents views on the matter, by a vote of the people.
A few facts for this discussion
Akres makes some statements which are not supportable with the facts. So here are some numbers that one should have when someone says the commercial fishery hammers the stocks.
In the past few years ADF&G tagged fish in UCI and looked at exploitation rates of the commercial fishery on the total return. What they found is that for silvers, chum, and pink salmon more than 90 percent of the return entered the river. The commercial harvest was not as high as everyone anticipated - these is in published reports given to the Board of Fish.
Second, all of the early run Susitna river chinook, except a few thousand chinook harvested in the Northern District, made it into the streams along with all of the early run Kenai River chinook.
Relative to sockeye salmon, the commercial exploitation rate is variable depending on the strength of the run. With the escapement goals in place these stocks are protected if they are managed for the goals. It should be noted that the goals provide for a sport fish harvest in the Kenai River above the counter. Usually, all users combine probably on average harvest 60-70 percent of the sockeye. The bulk in big years go to the commercial fisheries.
For late run Kenai River chinook salmon the commercial east side set nets took between 16-20% of the return. Therefore 80-84% of the return enters the Kenai River.
It looks to me like the recreational fisheries have available to them most of the fish entering the rivers of UCI.
Comments about doing away with the commercial fishery in UCI and the fishery hammering the stocks is not supportable with the data. In fact, the communities of Soldotna, Kenai, Homer, and even Anchorage would be seriously hurt by such as action.
I would agree that the alternative harvest methods can be discussed but suggestion like nphysician on other topic posted on this forum also have limitations - processing capacity and entry pattern of fish being two of them. However, at least nphyscian recognizes the need to harvest the fish.
Could you please elaborate with the current status of the Susitna/Yentna Sockeye stock? What status has the Fish and Game given these stocks? These stocks have been decimated to the point of becoming almost non-existant. I hear your stated position, however when push has come to shove over the decades, the commercial take has proven to be political and science was secondary in the decision making. I don't think the communities would be severely hurt, altered yes, for the betterment of the fish stocks. I am seeking facts about the legality of the process, not the "facts" of ones personal perspective.
Thanks for all your thought provoking posts though.
Be careful what you wish for in going to the ballot box. I'm hearing lots from the general public outside the "hooks and bullets" crowd. They're thoroughly "leaked off" about dead bears and crowds with guns on the Kenai and ATV tracks ripping through the countryside. Teach them how to use the ballot box, and they're likely to teach us a thing or two.
Originally Posted by Nerka
Just why is it such a need to harvet all available fish from a given run, and allow for only a subjective quantity of spawners? One wonders how all these natural stocks survived the eons, without being harvested commercially. I have problems understanding the basis of your arguments. If greater numbers need to be taken, they could always be taken by liberal bag limits, allowing many different methods of take for personal use and open areas that currently have protected status. I think these actions would produce a healthy and vibrant atmosphere for these communities to prosper. It would help put the "Fun" back into fishing, not the $.
answers for Akres
Hope this helps answer your questions.
Relative to the Susitna River it is not the commercial fishery that has created the poor returns in this drainage. There are over 25 lakes that produce sockeye salmon and these lakes have gone under a number of stressful events. I can give examples by lake so you can see the impacts on production - Red Shirt Lake use to produce 20,000 or more sockeye salmon - spawning escapements were measured in the 6-7 thousand range. Today these fish are gone due to pike predation. Shell Lake - this lake had spawning escapements in the 20-30 thousand range and probably produced a total return of 80-100 thousand sockeye - today there are over 27 beaver dams that fish must get over before reaching the lake - 20 years ago this was not the case. Cook Inlet Aquaculture has tried to remove these dams to allow fish passage but shortage of funds has kept that effort to a mimimum. Judd/Hewitt Lake complex - a major sockeye producer also suffers from extensive beaver dams - ADF&G has documented a complete blockage of these systems in some years.
In addition to beavers and pike (in something like 85 systems in the Susitna) the recent warming trend has combined to make flows low and water temperatures higher - some fish are just not making to the spawning area. In addition, the glacial lake systems may be having reduced production from increased turbidity due to melting. Clear water lakes have suffered from low oxygen levels in some cases.
Finally, last years total sockeye return to the Susitna came off a very large escapement which should have produced more fish but it did not. The feeling of ADF&G biologist and other biologist is that there is an in-river freshwater production issue due to the above factors.
Relative to your questions about fishing and harvesting fish there is another topic on this forum that has discussed this in detail. This is not a biological problem - you do not need to harvest fish for the sake of the stock. However, you did need to harvest fish if you want to use the high sustain yields that salmon populations allow each and every year. For reference a good text book that is easy to understand about this is called " Quantitative Fisheries Stock Assessment by Ray Hilborn and Carl Walters. Read chapter 7 - it is easy to read to understand as they have good examples.
On the subject of the ballot box about 15 years ago some people thought about this approach. However, polling indicated that over 70% of Alaskans support commercial fishing and that to take away an industry and throw out hundreds of families on the street was not a wise decision. I suspect that nothing has changed today, especially with the figures I provided on what enters the river right now.
There is no reason that the allocation fights in UCI should continue. All users have and will continue to enjoy the spoils of salmon management if the habitat is protected. That is the major threat to salmon production. For those living in the Susitna and Kenai drainages you need to watch what other industries and the public are doing - not focus on the commercial fishery. The Mat/Su and Kenai have meaningless habitat protection regulations in the local governments. The state is not much better.
Primitive biology. . .
Here again, as I see it anyway, is the narrow-minded, agenda-driven wish to do away with Alaska's constitutionally-mandated management of the state's resources for sustained yield to the benefit of all Alaskans and consumers everywhere. The desire to "return-to-eons-old, no-harvest" biology would deny the Alaskan salt-water commercial fishing industry a harvestable yield and the state the resulting economic gain, deny consumers who don't fish a share of that harvestable yield, and narrow the area's economic base. And for what? To "help put the 'Fun' back into fishing"? Why would Alaskans do such a thing?
Originally Posted by Akres