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Thread: How did salmon manage before they were managed?

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    Member trochilids's Avatar
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    Default How did salmon manage before they were managed?

    Honest question -- posed by my mom who just moved up here, as I was explaining EOs to her and how sometimes they increase bag limits or commercial fishery time once minimum escapement has been met in order to prevent an overabundance of fish from spawning and destroying the ecosystem.

    What about way back before the State managed the runs? What upset the equilibrium so that we have to manage it now? Some explanation would be helpful. I'm not sure I understand it fully myself...
    Palmer, Alaska
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Management for an optimum escapement helps achieve consistent returns year in and year out. There is still some fluctuation, of course, but the goal is for there to be harvestable fish every year for the various user groups. Before active management, boom and bust cycles were likely more common. Huge runs would lead to small runs in subsequent years. When too many fish spawn, the resulting fry and smolt have to compete for a limited food supply, leading to greater mortality of the young fish and eventually to smaller returns. Eventually these smaller returns would build in numbers to larger runs, and the cycle would repeat itself. With both commercial and sport fishing economies built around the return of the salmon, it is in everyone's interest to smooth out the peaks and valleys.

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    It's a common misconception to think that escpaement goals are used to prevent an overabundance of fish from spawning and destroying the ecosystem.

    Alaska manages it's fish under the "Sustained Yield Principle". Escapement goals are set so the fish can be used for the benefit of it's people, while at the same time sustaining the replentishable fish resource, the habitat, and ecosystem. It's a balancing act per say...benefitting from the fish, yet not benefitting so much that we lose the fish. The goal is based on scientific rationale for some level of optimum productivity supporting the sustained yield. Higher or lower escapements have been shown to reduce that productivity, and thus the sustainable yields. The EO's (Emergency Orders) you mention are part of the in-season management methods to do this with some flexibility.

    Before State management, the runs were in serious decline and some nearly wiped out. Using a finite replentishable resource to no end required some type of management that could sustain the runs, and at the same time provided for people. So Alaska's Sustain Yield Principle came along and helped the runs recover. It has been a proven success. In my opinion the only thing eroding it are special interests, and putting political and economic priorities above it. We are slowly transforming to emotional-based management where our foundation of fishery laws seem to mean nothing.

    Millions and millions of years ago, before man, the runs must have created themselves, and sustained themselves. Like Brian said, it could've been boom and bust. Maybe we've been in a boom...or a bust for millenniums. Maybe disease wiped them all out somewhere along the way and they started over. Maybe their entire habits and spawning process was different. Maybe they started in one stream and slowly spread the world. Maybe they never even spawned in fresh water. Who knows. What we do know is man is part of it all now. And without man holding to some sustained management principles, man will wipe them out. And of course, that will all be God's will and part of the cycle God had planned for this world...after all, who managed the dinosaurs?

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes
    Alaska manages it's fish under the "Sustained Yield Principle".
    I don't mean to add any confusion to the good answers to trochilds, but our salmon are managed by the state on the Maximum Sustained Yield basis.

    This document may help with some answers:
    http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/special/susalpol.pdf

    Note on page 3, this quote: "...unless otherwise directed, the Department will manage Alaska's salmon fisheries, to the extent possible, for maximum sustained yield."

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    The life cycles of many species are cyclical - from boom to bust to boom on varying cycles. From what we know many suspect the salmon followed the same cycles. Obviously the salmon did quite well for the long haul before man arrived and changed the course of nature.

    While we have evened out the returns the jury is still out on long term damage to the enviornment. The huge masses of biomass that at one time returned to nourish the ecosystems have largely been removed and sold. Our fishery management may need to be changed in the future- remember not so long ago good fisheries management included the killing of bald eagles, rainbow trout, and dolly varden. This killing went on for decades before it was proven to be wrong. There is still a lot to learn although some are not willing to admit how little we know. Fortunely there are some studies being done to more clearly define the role of salmon returns on the ecosystems and show that we are not creating long term damage.

    The boom and bust cycles of fish and wild game also show the big problem with real subsistance living- in poor times the people perish also. Famines are very effective in liming the population growth of humans- man had to learn to cultivate and preserve his own food before civilization could advance past the stone age.
    Living the urban lifestyle so I can pay my way and for my family's needs, and support my country. And you?
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    Thanks Mark.


    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak
    The huge masses of biomass that at one time returned to nourish the ecosystems have largely been removed and sold.
    How big were these "huge masses of biomass" that at one time nourished the ecosystem? Is more better? How much biomass is required to sustain our ecosystems? Are our ecosystems in trouble due to these "huge masses of biomas" being removed and sold? Or is this just more emotional conjecture directed at the commercial fishery?

    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak
    Our fishery management may need to be changed in the future- remember not so long ago good fisheries management included the killing of bald eagles, rainbow trout, and dolly varden. This killing went on for decades before it was proven to be wrong.
    There has to be a reason for change. The only things eroding our fisheries are the political, economic, and emotional-based management influences. Until they are addressed, you will knock yourself out with management "changes". The management principles we have can always be improved, but they are sound.

    tvfinak, bump the needle.

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    I don't have the answers to how big the runs were or how much nutrition the eco systems needs and if we are doing damage. We do know that the fisheries survived on their own long before man arrived and according to the first reports did quite well.

    The problem is that neither you and I - or anyone else - has all the answers either! We are continuing the fisheries management by assuming we are doing the right thing and that nothing has yet gone wrong and we are trying make a few dollars- just like BP did on an oil rig down in the Gulf of Mexico. In some cases like the killing of bald eagles, rainbow trout, and dolly varden everyone relied on false assumptions and stated that things were being soundly managed and the commercial guys kept raking in the $$$ - life was good - right?

    I take the opposite approach - the comm guys should prove that they aren't damaging the enviornment. We expect the same proof out of projects like the Pebble Mine - why should the comm guys be any different? Indeed like mining, commercial fishing has a long long history of distruction and laying waste to about everything they touch. Let the buden of proof of "no harm" be on those making the money.

    Note that I didn't suggest any changes to the current management - we just need to be certain that what we are doing is correct and that requires a lot more answers. The fish didn't thrive for milleniums of time by doing things all wrong - what can we learn from them and nature?


    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    How big were these "huge masses of biomass" that at one time nourished the ecosystem? Is more better? How much biomass is required to sustain our ecosystems? Are our ecosystems in trouble due to these "huge masses of biomas" being removed and sold? Or is this just more emotional conjecture directed at the commercial fishery?

    There has to be a reason for change. The only things eroding our fisheries are the political, economic, and emotional-based management influences. Until they are addressed, you will knock yourself out with management "changes". The management principles we have can always be improved, but they are sound.

    tvfinak, bump the needle.
    Living the urban lifestyle so I can pay my way and for my family's needs, and support my country. And you?
    ".. ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" JFK

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    [QUOTE=tvfinak;773814]I don't have the answers to how big the runs were or how much nutrition the eco systems needs and if we are doing damage. We do know that the fisheries survived on their own long before man arrived and according to the first reports did quite well.

    The problem is that neither you and I - or anyone else - has all the answers either! We are continuing the fisheries management by assuming we are doing the right thing and that nothing has yet gone wrong and we are trying make a few dollars- just like BP did on an oil rig down in the Gulf of Mexico. In some cases like the killing of bald eagles, rainbow trout, and dolly varden everyone relied on false assumptions and stated that things were being soundly managed and the commercial guys kept raking in the $$$ - life was good - right?

    I take the opposite approach - the comm guys should prove that they aren't damaging the enviornment. We expect the same proof out of projects like the Pebble Mine - why should the comm guys be any different? Indeed like mining, commercial fishing has a long long history of distruction and laying waste to about everything they touch. Let the buden of proof of "no harm" be on those making the money.

    QUOTE]

    Actually TV you are incorrect. Studies of sediments have shown or at least indicated the size of past returns and you hypothesis is not true. In fact, on average returns are greater for some systems today than in the past. I do not have the reference right in front of me but I think you can find it by google.

    Also comments like commercial fisheries laying waste to everything they touch is just plain bull. You really need to view the world from a different perspective. Also, every year the commercial fisheries of the world are evaluated for impacts and direction. The literature is full of data on their performance. In addition, you claim commercial fisherman are doing the destruction. In point of fact they are the implements of society. Social factors like over-population, cheap food, economic gain for coastal communities and other variables all play into the decision to commercial fish or not.

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    Member trochilids's Avatar
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    Very interesting reading. Thank you for the insights.

    Bushrat's recommended link contained some gems as well. I particularly liked the definition of "escapement" -- I took it as a pure numbers game. "Hey -- 100,000 fish passed by, they should raise the possession limits..." In reality escapement takes into account more variables than pure numbers (such as temporal distribution, age and sex). Makes good sense from a diversity and sustainability standpoint, but it's an easy thing to fail to consider...

    Cheers,
    Palmer, Alaska
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    Default What do we know?

    There have been a few core studies at a couple of locations showing some indications of past red salmon runs. I think you will admit that the data is very limted and does not shed any data on what size runs are required to support our present eco system. The question remains to be answered- are we doing damage to our eco system and fisheries?

    Commercial fishmen have traditionally overfished until the damage was severe or the fisheries destroyed. In some cases like on the east coast the fisheries have never recovered and perhaps never will. The past history of commercial fishing in Alaska is not so great either. Trying to pass the blame off the commercial fishermen as just meeting demand is no different from saying that BP was just trying to find oil for society. Somewhere along the line people must take responsibility for their actions!


    QUOTE] Actually TV you are incorrect. Studies of sediments have shown or at least indicated the size of past returns and you hypothesis is not true. In fact, on average returns are greater for some systems today than in the past. I do not have the reference right in front of me but I think you can find it by google.

    Also comments like commercial fisheries laying waste to everything they touch is just plain bull. You really need to view the world from a different perspective. Also, every year the commercial fisheries of the world are evaluated for impacts and direction. The literature is full of data on their performance. In addition, you claim commercial fisherman are doing the destruction. In point of fact they are the implements of society. Social factors like over-population, cheap food, economic gain for coastal communities and other variables all play into the decision to commercial fish or not.[/QUOTE]
    Living the urban lifestyle so I can pay my way and for my family's needs, and support my country. And you?
    ".. ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" JFK

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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    I don't have the answers to how big the runs were or how much nutrition the eco systems needs and if we are doing damage.
    Exactly. So your presumptuous claims that the commercial fishery is ruining our ecosystem have no merit...just like 99% of the whack-o statements you make.

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    Why don't you simply provide some proof that the comm fisheries aren't doing any long term damage? I can't find any comprehensive studies- perhaps you know of some.

    As I previously stated I can find many studies showing the importance of the nutrients provided by the returning salmon but none showing that no long term damage is being done. Indeed there are some studies that show the eco system may be damaged by the removal of the biomass - these are studies by some serious reserchers - but I quess they are all "whack-o " to you.

    I simply choose to be more cautious and protective of the fisheries than you. I would have most likely questioned the killing of the bald eagles, rainbows and dollies in that era while you would have probably supported the killing as sound fisheries "management" - perhaps you still do.


    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    Exactly. So your presumptuous claims that the commercial fishery is ruining our ecosystem have no merit...just like 99% of the whack-o statements you make.
    Living the urban lifestyle so I can pay my way and for my family's needs, and support my country. And you?
    ".. ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" JFK

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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    Why don't you simply provide some proof that the comm fisheries aren't doing any long term damage?
    You are the one claiming the commercial fishery is damaging our ecosystem, not me. So it is you who must provide the proof.

    tvfinak, all you've done is create a problem statement based on facts you admit you don't have. You've developed some pre-conceived notion based on conjecture and assumptions, and then asked others to prove you wrong. You've gone looking for information against something that, until you prove otherwise, doesn't exist.

    As for studies...Over and over, both Nerka and I have provided you with scientific evidence that our ecosystem is not being ruined by the commercial fishery. In short, here are some examples from ADFG's Salmon Rehabilitation, Enhancement and Development water quality investigation that you've already seen.

    "Overall, the Kenai River and its tributaries do not show signs of either nutrient deficiency or excessive unnatural organic enrichment."

    "In summary, 1991 nutrient levels in the Kenai River and its tributaries are within normal ranges relative to other natural waters, and as in 1990 show neither nutrient deficiency or excessive unnatural organic enrichment."

    Tvfinak, we've had this discussion over and over, and once again you are ruining a thread. A quick review/search of your past posting history reveals a strong anti-commerical sentiment, and atttempts to close the commercial fishery to get yourself more fish in the River. Please don't make me post some of those comments.

    As for wrongfully claiming you are more cautious and protective of the fisheries than me, and wrongfully suggesting I would support killing eagles, etc. as sound fisheries management...Well, those wild comments exemplify the irrational ideologies you repeat over and over here.

    Another thread trashed. We understand salmon are important to the ecosystem tvfinak. Move on.

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    [QUOTE=Grampyfishes;774735][U]investigation that you've already seen.

    "Overall, the Kenai River and its tributaries do not show signs of either nutrient deficiency or excessive unnatural organic enrichment."

    "In summary, 1991 nutrient levels in the Kenai River and its tributaries are within normal ranges relative to other natural waters, and as in 1990 show neither nutrient deficiency or excessive unnatural organic enrichment."

    Using 19-20 year old data is not a good way to support your argument - heck - 20 years ago I could "rock and roll all night and party every day". Now, not so much.

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    Management for an optimum escapement helps achieve consistent returns year in and year out. There is still some fluctuation, of course, but the goal is for there to be harvestable fish every year for the various user groups. Before active management, boom and bust cycles were likely more common. Huge runs would lead to small runs in subsequent years. When too many fish spawn, the resulting fry and smolt have to compete for a limited food supply, leading to greater mortality of the young fish and eventually to smaller returns. Eventually these smaller returns would build in numbers to larger runs, and the cycle would repeat itself. With both commercial and sport fishing economies built around the return of the salmon, it is in everyone's interest to smooth out the peaks and valleys. (Brian)

    Well said Brian. It is good to see that there are others on the forum besides Nerka and Grampy that understand salmon management and the negative aspects of overescapement.

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    Most of us have learned and changed a lot in the past 20 years. Most of the references I've seen on the importance of salmon to the eco system have been in the past 10 years or so - the present data and information that wasn't avaliable when the F&G did their work way back then. In addition to being rather dated - that is only study I've seen referenced. While the comm guys love the single study I think the rest of us should be a bit more skeptical.

    We just don't know what the levels of all of the nutrients in the streams and surrounding eco system were when the fish developed and generally prospered before man arrived. Without that knowledge and no current data how can we say that the stream and surrounding habitat nourishment is "adequate" and not being harmed by our current management practices?


    [QUOTE=gusdog44;774753]
    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    [U]investigation that you've already seen.

    "Overall, the Kenai River and its tributaries do not show signs of either nutrient deficiency or excessive unnatural organic enrichment."

    "In summary, 1991 nutrient levels in the Kenai River and its tributaries are within normal ranges relative to other natural waters, and as in 1990 show neither nutrient deficiency or excessive unnatural organic enrichment."

    Using 19-20 year old data is not a good way to support your argument - heck - 20 years ago I could "rock and roll all night and party every day". Now, not so much.
    Living the urban lifestyle so I can pay my way and for my family's needs, and support my country. And you?
    ".. ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" JFK

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    Quote Originally Posted by gusdog44 View Post
    Using 19-20 year old data is not a good way to support your argument - heck - 20 years ago I could "rock and roll all night and party every day". Now, not so much.
    I am not trying to support any argument...There is no argument. tvfinak has concocted a hypothetical problem that he has yet to show exists. And I'm not the one claiming throughout this forum that the commercial fishery is ruining our ecosystem. So I have nothing to prove. tvfinak does.

    Funny you critcize my data, but don't criticize tvfinak for not having any at all....He can't even answer simple questions or support his own claims.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    Most of us have learned and changed a lot in the past 20 years.
    If you have evidence that in the last 20 years the Kenai River and it's tributaries have suddenly become nutrient deficient due to commercial fishing, then please post it. Otherwise, you're just in denial.

    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    Most of the references I've seen on the importance of salmon to the eco system have been in the past 10 years or so
    Nobody is questioning the importance of salmon to the ecosystem. What's in question, and what you are avoiding, is supporting your hypothetical concoction you consistently make throughout this forum that the commercial fishery is causing damage to the ecosystem.


    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    the present data and information that wasn't avaliable when the F&G did their work way back then. In addition to being rather dated - that is only study I've seen referenced.
    Criticize and deny all you want. But where is your data and information? Any? Where's the evidence supporting your claim that the commercial fishery is causing damage to our ecosystem?


    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    While the comm guys love the single study I think the rest of us should be a bit more skeptical.
    What "comm guys" are you talking about? I am not a "comm guy", and I am not aware of any that use this study.


    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    We just don't know what the levels of all of the nutrients in the streams and surrounding eco system were when the fish developed and generally prospered before man arrived.
    Exactly why your claim that the commercial guys are ruining the ecosystem is bunk.

    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    Without that knowledge and no current data how can we say that the stream and surrounding habitat nourishment is "adequate" and not being harmed by our current management practices?
    Exactly. But worse yet, how can you say it is? BTW, both Nerka and I have provided you with plenty of information in the past (this discussion is a re-run). You reject it, just like you did here. And you will continue to reject it until you hear what you want to...That the commercial fishery is ruining our ecosystem.

    ...Still waiting for you to support your claim that the commercial fishery is ruining our ecosystem....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    You reject it, just like you did here. And you will continue to reject it until you hear what you want
    [...]

    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    the commercial fishery is ruining our ecosystem.
    AH HA! There it is! End of discussion.


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    Halleluiah!

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