Management of the Kenai River sockeye



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  • Management of the Kenai River sockeye

    Does anyone understand that for all fisheries targeting Kenai River sockeye salmon, except the sport fishery, are closed?

    I do not want to get into a big allocation fight but there does seem to be some confusion here. The logic escapes my way of thinking. In all the emergency orders closing the fisheries - P.U, educational, and commercial the justification reads that the inriver goal of 650,000 sockeye will not be met without these actions. However, in the sport fish bag limit reduction the ADF&G says they will meet the in-river spawning escapement goal of 500,000 to 1 million.

    You can only meet the spawning escapement if the inriver goal at river mile 19 is met or at close to it. Further, the management plan states that the fishery below the sonar counter should be managed to meet the in-river goal.

    In the past ADF&G in this situation closed below the sonar counter all fisheries targeting Kenai River sockeye salmon. However, actions above the sonar counter were taken only if the spawning escapement would not be reached. Therefore, the actions of ADF&G today gives a priority of harvest to the sport fishery downstream of the sonar counter over all other users in a time of conservation concern. This looks more political to me than biological.

    For the record, the 0.5 mile set net fishery is targeting Kasilof River sockeye salmon and the Board of Fish set this up knowing this situation could arise. Therefore, the key question is what is the targeted stock in the fishery? For the inriver Kenai sport fishery it is Kenai River sockeye salmon- in the commercial fishery outside the 0.5 mile and above the mid Kalifornsky Beach line it is Kenai River sockeye salmon, in the educational fishery it is Kenai River sockeye salmon, and in the P.U. fishery at the mouth of the Kenai it is Kenai River sockeye salmon. Why does one fish and continue to harvest when all the others are closed - makes no sense to me.

    Maybe those that agree with me should contact the Commissioner of Fish and Game and ask him the question. Others can respond here but be aware that ADF&G may also have exceeded their authority to reduce the bag limits in the Kenai. A management plan and regulation exists which ADF&G may have violated - it is 5aac75.003 and the Kenai River sockeye salmon management plan.

    I do not mind one fishery going forth if a management plan says that it can do so. In this case ADF&G seems to be allocating the resource -not the Board of Fish.

  • #2
    We may not be in this situation if the commercial fishermen didn't get all those EO's early on and even though most of them were in the Kasilof district, I would be willing to bet that they caught more Kenai sockeye's in those EO's than will be retained with the one sockeye limit.
    Also, why especially in a year such as this did they comfish get EO's when it was known that it was going to be a poor return and they continued to get EO's before they had any return at all in the Kenai, and we still don't have fish in the Kenai.
    Also, why does F&G always give all the EO time allotted before fish are past the counter just because the have it to give does not mean they have to give it.
    My guess is it is a vast conspiracy by the Kenai River Guides to put more kings in the river so they can catch them for their high paying clients from out of state and have all that money transferred to an overseas account so none of it stays in Alaska.
    Too bad most of the flights are full, because I bet a lot of commercial fishermen would be heading back to Washington or maybe their winter places down south if the heat isn't too bad.


    • #3
      a few facts may help the discussion

      The commercial fishery early in the season targets Kasilof River sockeye salmon as I mentioned in the post. Early in the season Kasilof is the only stock in the inlet so fishing hard early on Kasilof allows a harvest with little risk to Kenai.

      Fishing all the E.O's is a product of Kenai River Sport Fishing Association pressure on the Board of Fish. They fought for limited hours to fish per week and windows. What this does to managers is force them to use all the time since fish could move in the window period. In the past ADF&G would not fish this much early and when they did they would fish when fish were on the beach in large numbers. With the windows they cannot take the risk of waiting. The fact Kasilof has been over the goal most of the past years speaks to the fact that the windows and fishing pattern has not been the best management tool. It has done nothing for kings and sockeye entry - the exploitation rate on kings has gone up and sockeye come when sockeye want to come - especially this year.

      Relative to waiting for escapement that is what they do in the Kasilof - they watch the escapement rate and act accordingly. If you read the emergency orders they reference the escapement rate and whether it is higher or lower than they want. The escapement rate into the Kenai is driving the decision to close at this time of the year.

      On the Kenai it is a different story early in the season - if you wait for escapement the commercial fishery cannot operate and therefore goals cannot be met. The Kenai fish come into the inlet latter than Kasilof, hold in the district for up to two weeks, and then move to the beach in a rush. If a fishery was to wait for escapement the harvest would over whelm processors and the ability of the fleet and set nets to harvest this bulk of fish. In addition, one could take all the escapement in a few tides and then be forced to harvest heavily on the late portion of the run. This is not good fisheries management. Finally, if large escapements take place then this pattern of highs and extreme lows will continue. This was presented to the Board of Fish in models in 1999 and has been confirmed at each Board of Fish meeting since then.

      Most commercial fisherman in UCI are residents of Alaska - over 70 percent of the drift fisherman and higher for set net fisherman. No one is flying south - a number of fisherman from outside did not come up based on the forecast.

      The allocation of fish between users is set by the Board of Fish and commercial fisherman are defined in management plans as the primary users of sockeye salmon in UCI. That is where the allocation issues should be decided.

      What I am questioning is whether you want ADF&G to set allocation policy outside the Board of Fish and whether you think a conservation closure should apply to all users or just 4 out of the 5 - sport fishing being the exception. For the record, I am not a commercial fisherman, do not sport fish the Kenai anymore after fishing it for years, stopped fishing the p.u. fishery, and never was a participant in the educational fishery. I do not like crowds so go places that allow me to fish in peace. No big fish just fun catching trout with the grandkids and learning about fish from a naturalist viewpoint.


      • #4

        Originally posted by yukon
        My guess is it is a vast conspiracy by the Kenai River Guides to put more kings in the river...

        Regardless of "why" it's happened and that will indeed get some scrutiny it must be noted that now with the Kenaitze educational fishery closed, the commercial gill-net industry and personal use fishery shut down, thousands of folks are out of work, thousands of Alaskans are denied their personal use sockeye, area businesses such as Custom Seafood with their new building, Trustworthy Hardware, Soldotna campgrounds, restaurants, Fred Meyer and many, many, many more will lose millions of dollars.

        Nor should it be missed that whatever economic loss, however disappointed Alaskans might be the nets are on the beach, the dip-net fishery is closed, the Kenaitze educational fishery is closed there will be now be more kings in the river for the commercial and personal sport fishery.

        As an area guide remarked earlier this spring when I asked whether he'd heard of Fish & Game's gloomy forecast for the sockeye run, "We like that forecast just fine." There might now be enough kings to get that extra week of fishing below Eagle Rock.


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