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  • Cook Inlet Chinook collapse.

    The king numbers for the Northern District keep getting worse, and worse. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/applications/dcfnewsrelease/999033903.pdf. Page 10 of the report shows total harvest in the commercial fishery since 1970. 2018 was the second lowest year, after 2012. The last 7 years, from 2012 to 2018 average harvest of 7.6 thousand fish is the lowest 7 year average in this entire period, and encompasses a full life cycle. Only 2 of those 7 seasons were above the 7.6 average. 4 of the 8 lowest harvests of that entire time have come since 2012. The 48 year average harvest is 15.2 thousand fish.

    This is bad news for the fishermen and industries that count on chinook for income, but how about the bigger picture? I haven't paired these numbers to weir counts or sport fish catch or restrictions yet, but there has not been a corresponding increase in escapements, or sport or PU harvests that I know of. Instead, weir counts are also down through this period, and sport fish restrictions have been put in place on many if not most Cook Inlet Chinook fisheries throughout this time period.

    We can keep infighting all we want about opportunity on the remaining fish, but we have to as a state, get serious about getting this resource back. We have to find the reason kings aren't getting back from the salt. While we look for all causes, we need to focus on known causes, and possible man made problems. It means getting tough on the pollock fishery. This is the ONLY fishery in state with documented high numbers of kings, year after year, and they continue to claim they are not responsible for nor party to the collapse of the Cook Inlet kings. Yes, folks, it is a collapse. This claim, however, does not have backing. The pollock fishery cannot come to the table with current genetic testing of the kings they have caught that proves their case. Instead, they tell us that their fishery is fine, and we have to prove that its not... in otherwords, bass ackwards. They are the fishery that is taking the fish, they need to be the ones who prove they are fishing sustainably. And what about pink and chum hatcheries? Are these millions of smolts added to the natural mix, competing for food at early stages of development? Are they providing feed for apex predators, allowing populations to grow artificially and affect other species, like kings?

    Its time to acknowledge that there's a crisis, and manage these fish as such.

  • #2
    "Ė Gas boats are bad enough, autos are an invention of the devil, and airplanes are worse." ~Allen Hasselborg

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    • #3
      Increase the limits on rainbows, stealhead and all other species that eat the king eggs

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Chez View Post
        Increase the limits on rainbows, stealhead and all other species that eat the king eggs
        You mean the nonviable king eggs drifting downstream that would never hatch anyways? Or do they dig up viable eggs out of the redds?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Chez View Post
          Increase the limits on rainbows, stealhead and all other species that eat the king eggs
          Consensus amongst the folks I've talked to, who have done the smolt surveys and spawning success, is that there are good smolt migrations. Putting more smolts out is great, but the smolts aren't getting back to the rivers as adults. Perfect example of diversion.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by willphish4food View Post
            Consensus amongst the folks I've talked to, who have done the smolt surveys and spawning success, is that there are good smolt migrations. Putting more smolts out is great, but the smolts aren't getting back to the rivers as adults. Perfect example of diversion.
            How are good smolt migrations possible, if they aren't getting back to the river as adults?


            Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
            Responsible Conservation > Political Allocation

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            • #7
              Will, I think you are mixing apples and oranges here. Using all of UCI chinook harvest is not the way to look at the data, especially since regulations have significantly impacted the harvest potential. I agree one should look at all harvesters and take action if escapement goals are not met. But also one should look at the in-river systems to see if in-river issues have impacted production. So far I only see harvest and escapement numbers in the discussion.

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              • #8
                Historically, when salmon stocks were doing well in Alaska, they werenít doing well in the PNW. And vice-versa. But not lately. Things are tough down here too. The preseason Spring Chinook forecast for the Columbia Rv is dismal. Really bad. Itís very possible the run will come in better than expected, but under no circumstances will the run be anywhere close to the 10-year average.

                Ocean conditions have a lot to do with the poor forecast. Although things are getting better in the North Pacific, but it is possible the poor ocean conditions are effecting both Columbia Rv and UCI stocks.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Nerka View Post
                  Will, I think you are mixing apples and oranges here. Using all of UCI chinook harvest is not the way to look at the data, especially since regulations have significantly impacted the harvest potential. I agree one should look at all harvesters and take action if escapement goals are not met. But also one should look at the in-river systems to see if in-river issues have impacted production. So far I only see harvest and escapement numbers in the discussion.
                  Really? Look at the stocks of concern for chinook, Nerka. Sheep, Goose, Willow, Chuitna, Theodore, Alexander, and Lewis in the Northern District of Cook Inlet. Listed since 2010, except for Sheep, which was added in 2013, and now management concerns, with exception of Willow, a yield concern. You can do what you asked of me quite easily, Nerka- pick up the phone and call, and ask how production is. The smolts outgoing per spawner are good; they are getting to the ocean, just not back. And as you said; regulations have significantly impacted harvest potential- commercially and sport fish. If it were a simple matter of catching too many fish, nearly 10 years of increasingly impactful restrictions should be producing results. That's why I posted the commercial numbers. Commercial catch over the last 8 years is half the 10 year average for the period from 1970 to present. The Susitna sport fisheries have been restricted and now closed completely over the same period. Yet instead of rebounding, the stocks can't even produce a surplus in the Deshka, the most productive fishery in the Valley! So we are well past the point of just looking at inriver and nearshore interceptions, and expand the scope of our search.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by hoose35 View Post
                    How are good smolt migrations possible, if they aren't getting back to the river as adults?


                    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                    Progeny per spawner.

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                    • #11
                      Will what systems have smolt counts on them for chinook? Kenai and Kasilof do not. The total Susitna drainage does not have smolt numbers. So where did you get the idea smolt numbers are good and how do you measure good? Also you made my point. I said to look at individual rivers not harvest data for all of UCI. You pointed out streams that need examination. However, in recent years estimates of total chinook to the Susitna have been good for some years and for the Deska. Another problem is using averages. By definition that means 50% of the time the runs will be below average. So when people say the runs have been below average that is expected. Even a run of low years does not mean a long term issue if habitat is still good and harvest is controlled. Not saying not to look at harvest just there are other factors involved and you focus a lot on harvest and make claims about smolt numbers for all of UCI which is not true.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Nerka View Post
                        Will what systems have smolt counts on them for chinook? Kenai and Kasilof do not. The total Susitna drainage does not have smolt numbers. So where did you get the idea smolt numbers are good and how do you measure good? Also you made my point. I said to look at individual rivers not harvest data for all of UCI. You pointed out streams that need examination. However, in recent years estimates of total chinook to the Susitna have been good for some years and for the Deska. Another problem is using averages. By definition that means 50% of the time the runs will be below average. So when people say the runs have been below average that is expected. Even a run of low years does not mean a long term issue if habitat is still good and harvest is controlled. Not saying not to look at harvest just there are other factors involved and you focus a lot on harvest and make claims about smolt numbers for all of UCI which is not true.
                        Reading these posts I think alarm is caused by the continuing string of year after year of low fish numbers what you are calling below average. So without or having low corresponding harvest on those low years is it river or ocean or both that is keeping them down? Maybe it has not been long enough for the numbers to build back up from a couple low years but who knows maybe they never will because river or ocean or both have changed. Animals can lose out because of ecology changes even though they are not part of a harvest. Not long ago I read about seabird declines a lot of declines they are not harvested. They thought it was changes to environment from climate that disrupted several species life cycle. So now Several are at lower numbers not expected to build back up anytime soon unless things change. Why would a fish species be prevented from having the same type of thing happen to them?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by kidfromgarcia View Post
                          So now Several are at lower numbers not expected to build back up anytime soon unless things change. Why would a fish species be prevented from having the same type of thing happen to them?
                          Not a scientist but seabirds only lay a few eggs, while a king salmon can lay anywhere from 5,000-17,000 eggs. In perfect conditions it wouldnít take long for a king run to be above average.

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                          • #14
                            Pen - Your point is correct but your comparison is not.

                            Seabirds nest every year. Yes, only a few eggs but some seabirds can live 50+ years or more. And if a clutch of eggs gets destroyed, they can lay another clutch in the same year. Plus, they spend lots of time and energy protecting and feeding the chicks until they are old enough to leave the nest. Conversely, Pacific salmon only spawn once. And then they die. Once they put the eggs in the gravel, theyíre done. Their entire life is only a few years, perhaps 7-8, at most.

                            But your point is correct that if conditions are just right, Pacific salmon stocks can rebound very quickly. That has happened many times in Alaska and elsewhere. And it may happen on the KP, but itís likely that the conditions necessary for this to occur may be outside our ability to control (ocean conditions and high seas harvest). Habitat (freshwater and near-shore marine) could be a factor, so itís always a good idea to protect the available habitat, and to restore what has been lost. But that canít guarantee above average productivity in the future.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Nerka View Post
                              Will what systems have smolt counts on them for chinook? Kenai and Kasilof do not. The total Susitna drainage does not have smolt numbers. So where did you get the idea smolt numbers are good and how do you measure good? Also you made my point. I said to look at individual rivers not harvest data for all of UCI. You pointed out streams that need examination. However, in recent years estimates of total chinook to the Susitna have been good for some years and for the Deska. Another problem is using averages. By definition that means 50% of the time the runs will be below average. So when people say the runs have been below average that is expected. Even a run of low years does not mean a long term issue if habitat is still good and harvest is controlled. Not saying not to look at harvest just there are other factors involved and you focus a lot on harvest and make claims about smolt numbers for all of UCI which is not true.
                              Quit twisting numbers and trying to make the chinook returns look ok. Runs are depressed, harvests are depressed; not "just below average." The vast majority of monitored runs in the Susitna are not meeting escapement thresholds, much less an escapement in the middle of the goal. This with greatly reduced harvest both in the commercial and sport fisheries. So instead of contributing something constructive, Nerka, you just tear down my observations? Very classy. What is most telling of this and other of your posts, is this is exactly th e same pushback from many in management, at all levels. Instead of recognizing the problem as such, they do everything to minimalize the problem, (failed escapement goals) and refuse to even study anything outside the local management areas. They do everything in their power, including marginalizing the messenger, in order to keep from doing what it will take to end the decline and begin a recovery of the chinook stocks.
                              746-6300 is the Palmer Office of F&G. Ask for Sam Ivey or Samantha Osland. I believe they can bring you up to speed rather quickly. You could also email or call AKTally for your questions.

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