As this season unwinds I find myself again wondering why the regulatory authorities have not written a personal use management plan that deals with some of the problems of this fishery. It is not a bad fishery per se but one that has few controls and direction. I would like to see before the next Board of Fisheries proposal timeline a group of people come together to define a proposal that deals with the following issues.
1. Boat use in the PU fishery and safety - At the peak of the fishery the PU had 380 boats out on the water. They were a mix of large and small craft and they tended to have little regard for rules of the road. Combine this fleet with the drift gill net boats and the chance of a serious incident increases. If the drift fleet is going out with an ebb tide they must do over 5 knots just to maintain control. With 380 boats they cannot react fast enough to avoid problems. There have been lots of close calls. In addition, the mix of large and small boats in the PU fishery has created an issue. I watched some big boats get up on step and run up river but they really could not see very well - one almost went over a small raft with a family in it. I would think we could expand the PU area upstream and maybe close the area below the canneries. More separation of boat types is necessary. Also, maybe we need to define fishing corridors and navigation corridors.
2. Persona use fishery and the dunes - while Kenai is taking action the Kasilof River is not under any control right now. I went down and took some pictures and it is a sad situation. People just park on the dune grass, there are few facilities to handle the volume of people. We need to have some group in charge of this and to put up fencing like Kenai to protect sensitive areas.
3. Personal use fishing and management. Today I was told by ADF&G that the PU fishery takes up to 40% of the fish entering the river. That was a shock to me - I thought maybe 20 percent. But with the growth in the boat fishery and shore fishery the exploitation rate is very high. So when Kenai is weak some type of management plan is needed on how to share the conservation burden. It may be that this fishery is not restricted but right now the two divisions argue over when to take action. They did it last year and today are meeting to define what to do about Kenai and the various fisheries. A discussion of step down actions may be needed.
4. PU fishery growth and other issues.-- the fishery is growing at a signficant rate and unless these other issues are fixed it will destroy habitat and continue to be a problem for various regulatory agencies. Some limit on growth may be needed or at least a controlled growth rate. The sport and commercial fisheries have these built into their managment plans. For example, the in-river goals and limited entry control the actions in the commercial fishery. There are limits on the number of sport caught fish and there are bank and in-river closures to reduce habitat damage.
5. The City of Kenai and the State should act to control impacts beyound the river. During the peak, cars and trailers were parking on the Bridge Access road maybe in violation of state law. Maybe when the boat launch parking is full the city should close the public boat launch.
There are other issues but I think a calm rationale discussion with some people could put together a good proposal to deal with these. It may reduce tension at the Board meeting on these issues. Allocation of fish is another matter and should not enter the discussion.