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Pitfalls and perils of mixed-stock salmon fisheries

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  • mark knapp
    replied
    Originally posted by Nerka View Post
    I have been concerned for years that some of these discussions are specific to a topic like mixed stock fisheries and focus on gear selectivity more than other equal considerations. For example, in the Kenai River the chinook fishery is highly selective for chinook salmon. However, for years the application of that selective gear has caused in my opinion the overharvest of chinook salmon in the early run and the elimination of large chinook salmon in the late run (assuming two runs). I believe history will show ADFG totally missed the ball in how the fishery was prosecuted. So even with a highly selective gear poor practices led to poor outcomes for the selected stock. ADFG must discuss the management plans in a comprehensive way and not let opportunity and allocation fights divert from good practices. It is very difficult to get ADFG to even discuss alternative fishing practices, even with highly selective gear. In contrast the commercial gill net fishery is selective for a size of fish and timing of the harvest. I am not sure the Department is adapting to the changes in run timing of sockeye and other stocks. Again existing management plans and allocation issues reduces ADFG to followers instead of leaders. The present Commissioner is more interested in providing fish to the personal use fishery than the health of the stocks.
    I couldn't agree with you more on most of your points.

    This is my only exception to what you are saying. When I was commercial fishing in Cook Inlet (set net sights at Polly Creek) we caught all manor of fish in all of our nets.

    Nets, fish wheels and weirs are only going to be as selective as the guys running them. It's true that you can make a net more selective by timing it's use to the run and establishing legal mesh sizes but we sometimes caught all five species in the same net (in a terminal fishery). In our case it was legal and the canneries bought them all. We have caught 90 pound halibut in 9 feet of water, in a net intended for sockeye. We often caught kings in the same net and sockeyes in king nets. We even caught a pike in a set net site in the ocean, he was alive and feisty.

    We caught up to fifty sharks in a net at a time, lots of flounders, hundreds of dungeness crabs, and more. They will mostly all be dead.

    The idea that terminal fisheries by "selective methods" as the article would have you believe, Is grossly inaccurate. (I no that's not your point)

    I have been in the interior helping a "subsistence" user (I was a guest at his house so I helped with his daily chores) check a net intended for chum salmon to feed sled dogs. The net caught kings, chums, silvers, pike, trophy sheefish and three varieties of whitefish. They were all dead and they were all fed to the dogs and this is more the norm than the exception. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just saying it's what happens and to pretend that it isn't is disingenuous. Again, I know that wasn't your point but to solve a problem we need to fully understand it.

    I can't speak to chinook management in the Kenai as I have no knowledge of that. I take your point though. Is high-seas "by-catch" by China, Japan and Russia as big problem as we have understood it was? If it is, do we have any chance at all of managing it properly?

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  • Nerka
    replied
    I have been concerned for years that some of these discussions are specific to a topic like mixed stock fisheries and focus on gear selectivity more than other equal considerations. For example, in the Kenai River the chinook fishery is highly selective for chinook salmon. However, for years the application of that selective gear has caused in my opinion the overharvest of chinook salmon in the early run and the elimination of large chinook salmon in the late run (assuming two runs). I believe history will show ADFG totally missed the ball in how the fishery was prosecuted. So even with a highly selective gear poor practices led to poor outcomes for the selected stock. ADFG must discuss the management plans in a comprehensive way and not let opportunity and allocation fights divert from good practices. It is very difficult to get ADFG to even discuss alternative fishing practices, even with highly selective gear. In contrast the commercial gill net fishery is selective for a size of fish and timing of the harvest. I am not sure the Department is adapting to the changes in run timing of sockeye and other stocks. Again existing management plans and allocation issues reduces ADFG to followers instead of leaders. The present Commissioner is more interested in providing fish to the personal use fishery than the health of the stocks.

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  • mark knapp
    replied
    Originally posted by Cohoangler View Post
    Actually, this thread is about the perils and pitfalls of a mixed stock fishery.

    I mentioned the hazards of a mixed stock fish in post #7, but I also pointed out that these hazards can be mitigated by the use of selective fishing gear (post #9). The example I used was fish wheels, from which the conversation went in an entirely different direction. For better or for worse.

    But the main point of this thread is clear: Mixed stock fisheries can be difficult to manage. My view is that selective fishing gear can help reduce the uncertainty.
    You are right, selective gear can help mitigate problems with mixed stock fisheries, but only as far the the people fishing are willing to do so. The gear by itself can't do it. From my experience and perspective, nearly all fisheries are mixed stock fisheries (more-so in the terminal fisheries because that's where different species of salmon can be most mixed. In the high seas, the different species are more segregated) and regulations that separate species in mixed stock fisheries reach only as far as the road system.

    To me, the article is trying to argue that terminal fisheries are less mixed than other fisheries because of geography and methods used. In my view, this is not the case.

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  • Cohoangler
    replied
    Actually, this thread is about the perils and pitfalls of a mixed stock fishery.

    I mentioned the hazards of a mixed stock fish in post #7, but I also pointed out that these hazards can be mitigated by the use of selective fishing gear (post #9). The example I used was fish wheels, from which the conversation went in an entirely different direction. For better or for worse.

    But the main point of this thread is clear: Mixed stock fisheries can be difficult to manage. My view is that selective fishing gear can help reduce the uncertainty.

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  • mark knapp
    replied
    Originally posted by Nerka View Post

    Mark ADFG on the Kenai uses wet boxes every year since statehood. We caught hundreds of fish for sampling and did no want to kill them. So it is just a matter of effort to keep the boxes empty. There were times work schedules kept us from working the boxes and we killed a hundred fish or so. However, that was rare.

    One has to ask for what purpose the fishwheel is fishing. If for harvest a dry box is appropriate. For releasing fish a wet box works but is labor intensive. However, the idea one can harvest 3-6 million Kenai River sockeye with fishwheels is somewhat silly. With private property along the river and the number of wheels required makes that highly unlikely. Next the quality of the fish is degraded significantly over fish caught in the inlet. Also processors want to deal with a large volume of fish at one time so their costs of labor is low. So there are lots of factors to be considered.

    In Cook Inlet it is nuts the way the Board of Fish and ADFG is managing the fishery. The set net large chinook harvest is minimal and if ADFG had any sense they would recognize that and plan a defendable approach. However, after the sport fishery overharvested the early run (no commercial fishery) and allowed a full on in-river fishery instead of a pass through fishery the late run was in trouble long before this turn down. The miscounting of the run for 30 years did not help as it was an overcount. Sport Fish Division has never taken responsibility for their role in this mess. Lots of excuses. They allowed a mixed stock fishery on chinook in the Kenai - especially the early run.

    I guess without good leadership the fisheries and community are doomed.
    I think for purposes of discussion here, we are all talking about harvest wheels.

    I had heard of wet boxes for sampling before but I haven't heard of anyone using wet boxes for harvest. I suppose there must be people using wet boxes for harvest but I haven't been around them. I'm used to wheels in the bush, that are all wooden, and all of them had dry boxes.

    I've seen the wheels at Chitina, some of them are metal but I can't remember if any of them had wet boxes. The video posted by cohoangler showed two different wheels, apparently at Chitina that had wet boxes and it was assumed they were common. I did a quick google search of "fish wheels" and counted wet verses dry boxes. The huge majority were dry.

    I think his argument was that, since the boxes were wet, they could be used to select one species for harvest and let the others go. That's not what happens in the bush. In the bush, all boxes are dry and everything dies, in my experience.

    The premise of the article, as I understand it, is that the methods used historically by people at terminal fisheries enabled them to manage fisheries in a selective manor. From all the evidence we have, it just didn't happen. Wildlife conservation is a concept that emerged sometime long after Europeans arrived. Conservation is a luxury for people that are not struggling to survive.

    A well known native author named Sidney Huntington from the interior used to write and talk about survival in Alaska before westerners arrived. People that sometimes had to eat ptarmigan droppings to survive did not have the luxury to let a king salmon go, even if he somehow knew that the species needed to be preserved. There was no way to know, and there was no such luxury. Somebody once told me that there was no word for "Conservation" in any of the native languages. There was no room for conservation in native culture, when survival was a full time job. In times of abundance they harvested, and sometimes over-harvested because lean times were all too common.

    Even today, when someone is hungry, conservation goes out the window. It is legal to take wild fish and game out of season in Alaska to get you through a temporary survival situation.

    These comments are not to you personally Nerka.

    Anybody that espouses the viewpoints in that article are either being disingenuous, naive or are pushing a self-serving agenda. As I said before, it's more about allocation than management, IMHO.

    I can't speak to what you say about ADF&G management of Cook Inlet. I commercial fished it for a few years in the nineties (set netting) but I don't have much knowledge of the management plan. I try not to talk about things I have limited knowledge in.

    What I do know about it is, we were only allowed to fish up to two days a week when we were allowed to fish. We were not allowed to fish until escapement goals were reached (Whether those goals were right or wrong I don't know) We were shut down for one species when a run of another species started, until that species reached it's escapement goals. So in my case, modern management was selective in a mixed species fishery. Whether it worked or not is another argument. I can tell you that seasons and bag limits were strictly adhered to by commercial fishermen in Cook Inlet.
    Last edited by mark knapp; 3 weeks ago.

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  • Nerka
    replied
    Originally posted by mark knapp View Post

    For clarity, lets call the two things on the axle that rotates the "baskets" and the thing that holds the fish after they are caught the "box"

    The boxes on fish wheels are dry, generally, every fish that goes in the box dies. Fish wheels are visited only as often as it takes to keep the box from over-flowing. I've never seen a "wet" fish wheel box. There may be exceptions.

    Nets can be made more selective. F&G regulates the mesh size you use during a particular season to try to mitigate by-catch but reds still get caught in king nets and kings still get caught in sockeye nets.
    Mark ADFG on the Kenai uses wet boxes every year since statehood. We caught hundreds of fish for sampling and did no want to kill them. So it is just a matter of effort to keep the boxes empty. There were times work schedules kept us from working the boxes and we killed a hundred fish or so. However, that was rare.

    One has to ask for what purpose the fishwheel is fishing. If for harvest a dry box is appropriate. For releasing fish a wet box works but is labor intensive. However, the idea one can harvest 3-6 million Kenai River sockeye with fishwheels is somewhat silly. With private property along the river and the number of wheels required makes that highly unlikely. Next the quality of the fish is degraded significantly over fish caught in the inlet. Also processors want to deal with a large volume of fish at one time so their costs of labor is low. So there are lots of factors to be considered.

    In Cook Inlet it is nuts the way the Board of Fish and ADFG is managing the fishery. The set net large chinook harvest is minimal and if ADFG had any sense they would recognize that and plan a defendable approach. However, after the sport fishery overharvested the early run (no commercial fishery) and allowed a full on in-river fishery instead of a pass through fishery the late run was in trouble long before this turn down. The miscounting of the run for 30 years did not help as it was an overcount. Sport Fish Division has never taken responsibility for their role in this mess. Lots of excuses. They allowed a mixed stock fishery on chinook in the Kenai - especially the early run.

    I guess without good leadership the fisheries and community are doomed.

    Leave a comment:


  • mark knapp
    replied
    Originally posted by Cohoangler View Post
    Thanks for the discussion. You get the last word on this.....
    OK, but you know what that means, last word wins. Nice talking to you too.

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  • Cohoangler
    replied
    Thanks for the discussion. You get the last word on this.....

    Leave a comment:


  • mark knapp
    replied
    Originally posted by Cohoangler View Post

    I’ll defer to your expertise on fish wheels, but your statement is a bit surprising. It didn’t take me long to find a video (Copper River) of a fish wheel where the box is wet; and the fish are very much alive when they are taken out of the box.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2dOeejD_60

    Presumably you can see why someone, such as I, could come to the conclusion that fish wheels could be a selective fishing gear. I see no reason why the fish being removed from the box could not be released back into the river, if necessary for conservation purposes. But maybe you do…..

    And I found plenty of other videos of fish wheels in Alaska where the fish box is wet; and the fish being removed are alive and kicking. It doesn’t seem like an exception. That’s why I find your statement a bit surprising.
    Like I said, there may be exceptions. I can show you a two headed goat on the internet too More than one), but that doesn't mean they are common. I can only tell of my own experiences and I can tell you that in reality, fish wheel boxes are almost always dry.

    I would add one more thing, like the two headed goat, it could be that the reason you were able to see fish wheels on You tube with all metal construction and wet boxes is because they are unusual. The vast majority of fish wheels in use are not on the road system (like those metal ones) and they are built almost completely with wood on site, in the bush.

    You tube by nature is a selective venue. The guy that builds a metal fish wheel is the guy that's going to put it on You tube. The guy in the back woods (the majority of fish wheel guys) is not going to put a video of it on you tube. It's too normal for him, it's his way of life. He generally lacks the internet connection and the desire to post.

    It would be very difficult to build a fish wheel of all wood construction with a wet box. They lack the winches and such required. The people just wouldn't bother.

    Last edited by mark knapp; 03-05-2021, 14:35.

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  • Cohoangler
    replied
    Originally posted by mark knapp View Post

    For clarity, lets call the two things on the axle that rotates the "baskets" and the thing that holds the fish after they are caught the "box"

    The boxes on fish wheels are dry, generally, every fish that goes in the box dies. Fish wheels are visited only as often as it takes to keep the box from over-flowing. I've never seen a "wet" fish wheel box. There may be exceptions.

    Nets can be made more selective. F&G regulates the mesh size you use during a particular season to try to mitigate by-catch but reds still get caught in king nets and kings still get caught in sockeye nets.
    I’ll defer to your expertise on fish wheels, but your statement is a bit surprising. It didn’t take me long to find a video (Copper River) of a fish wheel where the box is wet; and the fish are very much alive when they are taken out of the box.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2dOeejD_60

    Presumably you can see why someone, such as I, could come to the conclusion that fish wheels could be a selective fishing gear. I see no reason why the fish being removed from the box could not be released back into the river, if necessary for conservation purposes. But maybe you do…..

    And I found plenty of other videos of fish wheels in Alaska where the fish box is wet; and the fish being removed are alive and kicking. It doesn’t seem like an exception. That’s why I find your statement a bit surprising.

    Leave a comment:


  • mark knapp
    replied
    Originally posted by Cohoangler View Post
    Pardon my use of fish wheels as an example of a selective gear. I'm not an expert. You seem to suggest that every fish taken in a fish wheel is dead by the time the basket is emptied. My thought was that if the fish remain alive when you empty the basket, presumably they could be released relatively unharmed, if necessary for conservation purposes. Whether the fish are actually sorted and released is a different question.

    But there are probably better examples of selective gear types. My bad.
    For clarity, lets call the two things on the axle that rotates the "baskets" and the thing that holds the fish after they are caught the "box"

    The boxes on fish wheels are dry, generally, every fish that goes in the box dies. Fish wheels are visited only as often as it takes to keep the box from over-flowing. I've never seen a "wet" fish wheel box. There may be exceptions.

    Nets can be made more selective. F&G regulates the mesh size you use during a particular season to try to mitigate by-catch but reds still get caught in king nets and kings still get caught in sockeye nets.

    Leave a comment:


  • Cohoangler
    replied
    Pardon my use of fish wheels as an example of a selective gear. I'm not an expert. You seem to suggest that every fish taken in a fish wheel is dead by the time the basket is emptied. My thought was that if the fish remain alive when you empty the basket, presumably they could be released relatively unharmed, if necessary for conservation purposes. Whether the fish are actually sorted and released is a different question.

    But there are probably better examples of selective gear types. My bad.

    Leave a comment:


  • mark knapp
    replied
    Originally posted by Cohoangler View Post

    The point you’re raising is that the adverse effects of a mixed stock fishery can be compounded by the use of non-selective gear. But the opposite can also be true.

    If someone is using a gill net, anything caught in the net is likely to be dead, or close to it, by the time they retrieve their gear. So regardless of the strength or weakness of the stock, the fish is dead.

    Conversely, if they’re using selective gear (e.g., fish-wheel), the fish can be sorted so they can release the weak stocks. So, to some extent, the use of selective gear can reduce the adverse effects of a mixed stock fishery. However, it won’t help if you can’t tell the difference between the weak stocks and the strong stocks. Obviously anyone can tell the difference between a Chinook and a sockeye, but that usually isn’t the problem. The problem is that there are weak and strong stocks of the same species (e.g., Chinook) so you can’t tell the difference.

    So the choice is between conserving the weak stock while forgoing harvest on the strong stock; or harvesting the strong stock while recognizing the weak stock is likely to vanish as a result. That’s an all-too-often conundrum in fisheries management.

    And the issue of harvest of salmon in international waters is only going to get worse as newer technology begins to identify the areas of the ocean where specific stocks spend most of their lives. As I’ve said on this BB many times in the past, if the folks in Japan or China or Russian ever find out where the late-run Chinook on the Kenai River spend their time in the ocean (international waters), that run will go extinct regardless of the extraordinary restrictions we put on the UCI fishery or in-river harvest.

    I've been around fish wheels, I've built a few. Please explain to me how to make them selective. Fish wheels are almost universally left unattended, nothing is sorted, and nothing is returned to the river.

    Near as I can tell the only selective methods of fishing in a terminal fishery are dip nets and angling. Then it's only the selectivity of the fisherman that make it selective. (IE, they let go the fish they don't want or can't have) In my personal experience, selectivity, bag limits, and regulations stop at the road system.

    The article seems to advocate for the self managing of salmon stocks by the people at the terminal fishery. The cold hard truth is, that's not going to happen. There's just not enough enforcement to enforce seasons and bag limits at the terminal fisheries.

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  • Cohoangler
    replied
    Originally posted by mark knapp View Post

    Almost every river in Alaska has mixed stock fisheries of more than one species of salmon. I can't think of any that don't. Many times there are all five species in the river at the same time, all the way up to the spawning beds. The kings and reds hit the rivers first, in June, we catch them together. Then the shortly after that, the chums and pinks and then in August the silvers. Dip nets, fish wheels and set nets, as well as anglers will all be catching a mixture of a few different species.

    As I see it, it's near impossible to manage any of the fisheries because most of the catch is on the high seas, in international waters. There's no way to regulate it, or even know how big the problem is. We can do whatever we want in our home waters and we will still be at the mercy of Russian and Japanese, high seas fishing.
    The point you’re raising is that the adverse effects of a mixed stock fishery can be compounded by the use of non-selective gear. But the opposite can also be true.

    If someone is using a gill net, anything caught in the net is likely to be dead, or close to it, by the time they retrieve their gear. So regardless of the strength or weakness of the stock, the fish is dead.

    Conversely, if they’re using selective gear (e.g., fish-wheel), the fish can be sorted so they can release the weak stocks. So, to some extent, the use of selective gear can reduce the adverse effects of a mixed stock fishery. However, it won’t help if you can’t tell the difference between the weak stocks and the strong stocks. Obviously anyone can tell the difference between a Chinook and a sockeye, but that usually isn’t the problem. The problem is that there are weak and strong stocks of the same species (e.g., Chinook) so you can’t tell the difference.

    So the choice is between conserving the weak stock while forgoing harvest on the strong stock; or harvesting the strong stock while recognizing the weak stock is likely to vanish as a result. That’s an all-too-often conundrum in fisheries management.

    And the issue of harvest of salmon in international waters is only going to get worse as newer technology begins to identify the areas of the ocean where specific stocks spend most of their lives. As I’ve said on this BB many times in the past, if the folks in Japan or China or Russian ever find out where the late-run Chinook on the Kenai River spend their time in the ocean (international waters), that run will go extinct regardless of the extraordinary restrictions we put on the UCI fishery or in-river harvest.


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  • mark knapp
    replied
    Originally posted by Cohoangler View Post
    I agree that virtually all salmon harvest occurs in a mixed stock fishery. It is almost unavoidable. The few instances of a non-mixed stock fisheries might be terminal fisheries close to a single source, such as a hatchery. In Alaska, perhaps the most obvious is the Eklutna River fishery below the dam.

    But not all mixed stock fisheries are the same. In general, the farther away from the natal origin of the fish, the higher the risk to that stock. Conversely, the closer you get to the natal stream, the management risks decrease. And once the fish get to their stream of origin, any harvest that occurs is no longer ‘mixed stock’. However, harvest on the spawning grounds is both unethical and impractical since the fish may no longer be suitable for consumption.

    But the premise remains the same. If harvest occurs close to the stream of origin, the management risks decrease. That would argue for most of the harvest to occur when these fish return as adults.

    Unfortunately, that has not been the history of harvest. Over the past two centuries, salmon harvest has been characterized by one group of harvesters jumping ahead of another group, to get their share before someone else does. FishDoc would call this ‘low-holing’.

    So now, there are major fisheries in the open ocean where harvest is entirely mixed-stock, and it occurs long before these fish achieve their terminal body size. I cannot think of a more wasteful or risky way to harvest salmon than fishing for them in the ocean during their feeding/growing phase.

    If harvest was confined to areas close to their natal stream, at least we could target these fish when they have completed their feeding/growing phase; and they have reached their terminal body size. Plus, we might have a better idea of how many adults might return to specific rivers. Unfortunately, most open ocean fisheries do not allow that. And for those ocean fisheries where we know the origin of the fish, it might not matter.

    For example, I recall an article on this BB that indicated that Chinook salmon caught in Cook Inlet in winter originate from rivers in central British Columbia (from genetic testing). The point being, these fish are not destined for Alaskan rivers. So why should we be concerned about harvesting them (e.g., during the Homer winter salmon derby)?

    Ditto for the Chinook salmon fisheries in SE AK and Northern BC coast. We know from tag returns that many of those fish are destined for the Columbia River, so why should the folks in SE AK or BC be concerned about fish that originate someplace else? They’re not. But those of us in the Columbia Basin certainly do. I can’t think of a faster or more efficient way to increase the size and number of adults returning to the Columbia River than greatly limiting their harvest when these fish are in their feeding/growing phase. But that doesn’t seem to be a major consideration at this point. So the mixed stock fisheries continues unabated, regardless of how wasteful or inefficient it may be.


    Lastly, Nice to hear Nerka's voice again on this BB! We missed you! Best of luck with your health down in Redding.
    Almost every river in Alaska has mixed stock fisheries of more than one species of salmon. I can't think of any that don't. Many times there are all five species in the river at the same time, all the way up to the spawning beds. The kings and reds hit the rivers first, in June, we catch them together. Then the shortly after that, the chums and pinks and then in August the silvers. Dip nets, fish wheels and set nets, as well as anglers will all be catching a mixture of a few different species.

    As I see it, it's near impossible to manage any of the fisheries because most of the catch is on the high seas, in international waters. There's no way to regulate it, or even know how big the problem is. We can do whatever we want in our home waters and we will still be at the mercy of Russian and Japanese, high seas fishing.
    Last edited by mark knapp; 03-04-2021, 18:24.

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