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Pitfalls and perils of mixed-stock salmon fisheries

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  • Pitfalls and perils of mixed-stock salmon fisheries
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
    The KeenEye MD

  • #2
    Doc one of the problems with articles like this the generalizations that can get people in trouble when applied to a specific fishery. I do not want to get into specifics but all humans have a tendency to overharvest animals when food is short and animal abundances is low (E.O Wilson has written about this). This is especially true for large concentrations of people. On the Kenai the use of weirs on Slikok Creek to capture king salmon 1500 years ago worked because the people had control on how they harvested. In today's management system counting and tryiing to reach escapement goals has the same philosophical approach of providing for the future. Even the White Act under Federal management required 50% of the return to escape. However, as the article correctly points out the lack of counting and estimating run size resulted in overharvest. Traps were being fished if you remember in Cook Inlet and a number of Natives fished them. These traps were shore based so terminal in concept. So no matter the time period or peoples the lack of data can lead to overharvest(Beluga whales are another example and that was a Native only hunt) I just get nervous when someone writes an article with major generalizations with little qualification so just keep that in mind. I like to look at specific examples and see if the hypothesis holds. Overall the mixed stock fisheries have worked in UCI after data became available. Where data was poor (in river chinook counting and political power - guides and commercial fisherman combined) it did not work. However for Kenai sockeye management of the mixed stock fishery has taken the returns from 500,000 to 3.5 million on average. The other systems also did well until invasive species and beavers took over in the Susitna and we lost 400,000 sockeye. That had nothing to do with mixed stock fisheries but inaction by ADFG.


    • #3
      As always, thank you for your insight on cook inlet management A question for you. You state the kenai sockeye returns have risen from 500,000 to 3.5 million on average.. Do you think that the 200 mile limit has had some impact on larger returns? And if escapement goals were reduced from the 1 million plus they are today to something in the neighborhood of 3/4 mil. , thus allowing more commercial harvest,how do you think that would affect future returns.


      • #4
        Doc, two things that I see in the abstract bother me.

        First, indigenous peoples did not have the luxury to develop "sophisticated systems of management". They were simply limited by means. They used the most efficient, effective methods available to them to catch what they could until the effort required to catch more exceeded their need for more. In other words, when they had enough fish, they quit fishing. The phrase "Indigenous Management" Is an impossible misnomer, since they had no way of knowing how many fish stocks there were, or how many there might be in the future, they couldn't know how many they needed to save for the future. They simply could not catch enough, in most cases, to wipe out a fishery. They did not have the luxury to quit fishing even if they knew the fish stocks were going to be low the next year, in two years or five years when returning populations might be low due to a poor return this year. If they needed fish, they needed fish. Today, we have fish counters and escapement goals to do those things.

        The idea that modern man mixed the stocks is also impossible. They have always been mixed where they are mixed and they have always been separated where they are separated. Fish are only separated after they sort themselves out in the terminal fisheries. There are lots of places in terminal fisheries where you can catch all five species of salmon. When indigenous people encountered mixed stock fisheries in the past, they did the same thing they do today when they encounter mixed stock fisheries, they catch them and keep them until they have enough (we know these things from archeological findings). A fish wheel, a trap and to some extent a net cannot tell the difference between the species, and when a fish is dead, it's dead weather or not it's a king or a pink or a chum.

        None of the things I am saying makes indigenous people bad, they were people of necessity, and in some cases and places they are still people of necessity.

        It seems to me, that the article was written to espouse a particular view point and the people writing it have an agenda to push.


        • #5
          Mark, good points. It has been awhile since I posted. I moved to Redding, California for health reasons and decided to let Alaska Fishery issues rest for awhile. Anyway, relative to mixed stock fisheries I find it interesting that in my experience people want to focus on marine commercial fisheries and ignore the mixed stock nature in river. The Kenai is a mixed species and mixed stock fishery in the sport fishery. The dip net fishery does not separate out Hidden or Russian River sockeye which are genetically unique and neither does the main river sport fishery. Coho salmon are the same as coho spawn in a variety of small systems and major tributaries. Chinook salmon that come in early spawn in a number of tributaries and I content Slikok Creek was overharvested by the inriver mixed stock fishery. Other systems in UCI have mixed species and mixed stock in-river fisheries. The Susitna is a prime example. So before we jump off the cliff one needs to be careful on how they approach the issue. The comments you made are spot on as management implies some active approach other than not having enough fishing power to overharvest.


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