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Pitfalls and perils of mixed-stock salmon fisheries

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  • Pitfalls and perils of mixed-stock salmon fisheries

    https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/...542?login=true
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    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.

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    • #3
      Nerka
      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.

      Comment


      • #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.

        Comment


        • #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.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Nerka View Post
            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.
            First, sorry you had to leave Alaska, I wish for you the best of health. I found other things wrong with the article too, like the fact that a fish wheel wasn't an aboriginal method of take, it came to the north west cost with the Europians, like the dog sled. I didn't want to beat a dead horse though.

            I think the thrust of the article was merely to advocate for "local" management of salmon fisheries, not based really on science. It's more about allocation than management, IMHO.

            Comment


            • #7

              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.

              Comment


              • #8
                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.

                Comment


                • #9
                  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.


                  Comment


                  • #10
                    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.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      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.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        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.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          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.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            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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                            • #15
                              Thanks for the discussion. You get the last word on this.....

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