Commentary

Who got the fish

 

Chinook_salmon1

USFWS photo

News analysis

 

With what passes for mainstream media in Alaska making nice in the wake of the spring meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, it appears possible some board members don’t even know what they did, but average Alaskans need to know so here is a quick recap:

The first three bullet points, while sure to anger some average Alaskans and small business people in tourism markets, are the least of the issues in that list. There is nothing wrong with the board taking fish away from any user group.

Allocating between fisheries is the board’s job. Board chairman John Jensen, a commercial fishermen from Petersburg, recognized that.

“(These changes) will allocate some more fish to the commercial fishermen who, in my opinion, gave them up,” he said.

What he didn’t say is that in a zero-sum game allocating “some more fish to” group X requires taking “some more fish” away from group Y, but why would the board chairman want to be so honest?

Such a statement might actually anger average Alaskans who like to fish to fill their freezers or simply for fun.

Fair enough.

No sense in firing up the masses who live under the illusion their interests will be protected by the staff of the Alaska Division of Sport Fisheries for which anglers are the sole means of support. The division is one of the few self-supporting agencies in state government. All its funding comes from license fees paid by anglers and a federal match generated by federal taxes on fishing gear.

You might think the Division would at least embrace the idea it should try to do something to help the people who pay its bill. You’d think it would at least argue for conservation on a popular salmon stream like the Valley’s Little Susitna River which has failed to meet coho spawning goals for five of the last 10 years.

You’d be wrong.

The board did hear from some Mat-Su anglers and business owners worried about weak salmon runs, but they got no back up from the state biologists. Then the board heard from many of the 1,100 people who hold exclusive Cook Inlet commercial fishing permits.

They all said they were dying because of the loss of those fish they “gave up” as Jensen put it.

Whether the economic data supported those claims is another issue.

Crunching numbers

The value of the Cook Inlet salmon catch did fall between 2015 and 2016, dropping from an ex-vessel value of about $30 million to an ex-vessel value of about $25 million.

But that shift had little to do with the upper inlet fisheries the Board was discussing. The Upper Cook Inlet (UCI) sockeye salmon catch last year was reported to be worth about $23 million, only about $1 million less than the year before.

The big shift in value was linked to larger catches of pink salmon in the lower Inlet and a bonus-run of chum salmon in the upper Inlet, the part of the Inlet for which the Board was debating regulations.

As the ADF&G harvest summary for 2015 noted, the UCI catch “of approximately 269,000 chum salmon was more than double the previous 10-year average annual harvest of nearly 123,000 fish and represents the highest chum salmon harvest since 1995.”

A big chunk of that harvest came from Chitina Bay where state biologists noticed an unusually large return of chums and, according to their report, opened an emergency fishery for both commercial set and gillnet fisheries. This is the sort of clean fishery targeted on a specific run of salmon that makes for good fisheries management.

The catch there, the report notes,  helped boost the “value of chum salmon in the 2015 commercial fishery (to) approximately $729,000 or 3.0% of the total exvessel value in UCI.” For comparison sake, the exvessel value of the 2015 UCI pink salmon catch “was $39,000, or 0.2% of the total exvessel value.”

Suffice to say, pink and chum catches add little value to the 1,100 UCI permit holders. The sockeyes are what matter to them. Sockeyes return about 95 percent of the Cook Inlet value that produced an average of $20,909 per permit in 2016, down $909 from an average of $21,818 the year before.

Too many permits

In looking at these numbers, the most interesting thing that jumps out is what a mess the UCI fishery. When Alaska voters approved a 1973 amendment to the state Constitution to create what is now called “Limited Entry,” the intent was to limit competition to make commercial fishing a viable business.

The idea has worked elsewhere. Data from the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission indicates that the 523 commercial fishermen who call Anchorage home earn an average $94,000 a year – almost five times the average earnings on a Cook Inlet permit.

Granted, there are UCI fishermen who fish in more than the Inlet’s gillnet fisheries – some trolling in Southeast when not tending nets in the Inlet in July, some working in the halibut longline fishery around gillnet openings – who have made commercial fishing a business.

But a lot of UCI fishermen are little but part timers who spend a portion of their summer enjoying a well-paying hobby. This is what Roland Maw, the one-time director of the powerful United Cook Inlet Drift Association – did for a long, long time.  He worked a full-time job as a professor at Lethbridge Community College in Alberta, Canada, and came north to enjoy Alaska and his fishing hobby in the summers.

When and how Maw became an Alaskan, if in fact he ever did, is now being adjudicated. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s former appointee to the Fish Board is scheduled to go to trail in Juneau in August to face charges he defrauded the Permanent Fund by claiming to be an Alaskan when he wasn’t.

Maw quit the Fish Board, reportedly on orders from Walker, shortly after it was revealed he was claiming to be a resident of both Alaska and Montana, where he maintains a home not far south of the border from Lethbridge.

Walker later appointed Robert Ruffner, a former leader in Kenai Peninsula salmon conservation efforts, to fill Maw’s seat on the board. Ruffner did a good Maw impersonation at this year’s board meeting as he led the charge to see that UCIDA “got some more fish” as Jensen put it.

What does this shift of fish mean?

Winners and losers

Well, aside from an average Alaskan standing to lose fish or fishing opportunities because of the shift, whether Alaska wins or loses in the bigger economic scheme of things is a total unknown.

The board might have made a wise economic decision in giving the commercial fishery a shot at more fish despite the complaints from MatSu businesses and some Kenai dipnetters that they weren’t getting a fair shake.

The board might have made a horrible economic decision in giving the commercial fishery a shot at more fish even though those fishermen regaled the board with tales of economic hardship.

The fact is the board didn’t ask for any economic data to try to sort out losses and gains, or losers and winners. And even if it had asked for such data, there is no one to provide it. Fish and Game has a whole bunch of biologists. It has no economist.

As a result, board members were left to use their feelings to sort economic decisions that might be worth millions of dollars, if not tens of millions of dollars. This is the historic norm for Alaska fisheries management. Feelings take the place of data.

Totally overlooked in this exercise are the interests of the majority of Alaskans. Most of them don’t fish. All they get of value out of the fishery resource comes from what it adds to the state’s overall economy.

In this respect, fish are like Alaska oil only without the tax bonanza. From a tax standpoint, the state actually loses millions of dollars on commercial fisheries every year, but it does gain jobs. And fishery jobs, like oil patch jobs, help keep the Alaska economy afloat.

Some of the fishery jobs are in the commercial fishery. Some of the fishery jobs are in the tourism industry. Some of the jobs are in businesses that sell commercial fishing gear or sportfishing paraphernalia or provide services to the hundreds of thousands of non-residents who come here to fish each summer.

The state last year sold 300,862 non-resident fishing licenses and pocketed more than $13 million – more than twice what it collected from resident anglers and about four times what it collected in license fees from both resident and non-resident commercial fishermen.

How much these non-residents spent in Alaska to catch the fish is an unknown. There is no easily recorded exvessel value on tourists. The University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research in 1993 estimated sport fishing was then a $637 million business statewide with about two-thirds of the money – around $425 million – spent in the region surrounding the state’s largest city.

The biggest fisheries in that area revolve around Cook Inlet.

Politics have stopped the state from revisiting the value issue, but studies done elsewhere have generally concluded there is a significantly bigger economic return in inviting a tourist to come catch a fish – a horribly inefficient business – than letting a commercial fisherman catch the fish and sell it – a pretty efficient business.

Just think how much you’d spend to get that chicken if you had to hunt it down and kill it somewhere rather than buy it in the grocery.

How the state can allocate salmon to get the maximum economic return out of its fisheries without considering this sort of information is not something the Fish Board has ever contemplated.

Its whole theory of allocation has long been lost in the weeds of the idea it exists to mediate between competing interest groups – commercial fishermen, sport fishermen, personal-use dipnetters and subsistence advocates – as if they were the only ones with a stake in Alaska fisheries.

What is best for the collective whole of Alaskans is not even on the table at board meetings. The board has never made an attempt to maximize the net economic value of state fisheries. If the members of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission acted this way, they’d all get fired.

But this is what it is.

At least conservation has generally been something to which the Fish Board has given consideration. Unfortunately, even that got thrown under the bus this year.

The unconscionable

Ruffner, the board’s newly appointed conservationist, and a whole gang of state fisheries biologists sat mute when the subject of harvesting troubled northern Cook Inlet Chinook salmon stocks came up.

The conservation decision here was simple.

A small commercial salmon net fishery near the mouth of the Susitna River targets a big mixed stock of Chinook, or king salmon as Alaskans more often call them.

These are fish bound for dozens of streams in and around the Susitna drainage. Some of those streams get more spawners than they need. Some don’t. None of the spawning tributaries have a problem with “too many” spawners, and even if they did, anglers could easily be directed to solve that problem by fishing more just as they’ve solved the problem of too few spawners by fishing less or not at all.

The Chuitna, Theodore and Lewis rivers are now closed to king salmon angling because of a shortage of salmon. So, too Alexander, Sheep and Goose creeks. All six of these have king runs Fish and Game classifies as “fish stocks of concern.”

The state’s policy for the management of sustainable salmon fisheries “defines three levels of concern (yield, management, and conservation) with yield being the lowest level of concern and conservation the highest level of concern.”

The six stocks of Chinook listed above are of “management concern.” Think of them as something like a species designated “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Two other Valley salmon stocks – Susitna sockeye and Willow Creek Chinook – are listed as species of “yield concern,” meaning they aren’t producing significant harvestable surpluses even if they are meeting spawning goals, which in some cases they’ve missed and which in some cases the Board has decided not to establish.

When the news is likely to be bad, it’s sometimes better not to know, right?

The six stocks of management concern mentioned above are all subject to being picked off in the Chinook-targeted gillnet fishery early in the season. This is a fishery that was established in 1985 when Susitna-Yentna river Chinook runs were far in surplus of spawning needs.

Anglers in the Mat-Su Valley at that time made a deal with commercial fishermen to support the new set-gillnet fishery with the understanding that if runs weakened in the future, the new commercial fishery would be closed.

Andy Couch, a representative from the Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee, reminded board members of that this year. They sat as silent as salmon carcasses on a riverbank.

Alaska was once a world leader in salmon conservation. Those days appear to be over. No salmon fishery management organization on either coast today would allow a targeted commercial fishery on a mixed-stock fishery of this nature when any harvestable surplus could be taken elsewhere with no threat to the weaker components of the run.

Add in the fact that a November 2015 study in Marine Policy concluded the surplus salmon caught on rod and reel by an angler would be worth about $1,000 each versus less than $50 in the commercial fishery, and this one becomes a no-brainer.

If you have a brain.

In one case, you can sensibly harvest fish in an ecologically sound way and pump $1,000 a fish into the economy. In the other, you can play Russian roulette with the fish to produce a twentieth as much.

This board didn’t seem to care. Nor did it seem much concerned about Susitna sockeye, another species of concern, or those Little Su coho salmon that have failed to meet spawning goals for five of the last 10 years. Both runs pass through a gauntlet of commercial nets in the Inlet.

Past boards had sought to protect these fish with a “conservation corridor” that restricted commercial fishing. This board relaxed the rules for the corridor. That was a big win for UCIDA.

With luck, it won’t be a big loss for conservation. Not that the current Board of Fisheries acted like it much cares about such things. The only salmon it acted to protect were troubled, early-run Kenai Chinook, which no one has fished for years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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18 replies »

  1. Great discussion, most interesting. Have a look at the situation in Puget Sound / Columbia River area. Every year allocations for sport, native, commercial, etc., lots of consternation and finger pointing. From my minor research it seems we are all fighting over about 3% to 5% of the typical historical quantity of fish that existed in the area at about the turn of the century. Pretty sad indeed….it’s best to err on the side of the fish and the watershed.

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  2. Craig, how do you sleep at night after putting out so much misinformation? First sport and pu fisherman had a net increase in allocation. The Board raised the in river Kenai Sockeye goal from 1.35 million to 1.5 million. That increase puts more fish into the river on large returns for sport and PU fisherman. You failed to mention that. Next, you said the valley lost fish and I assume you mean coho salmon. The ADF&G testified that the expansion of the drift area for one period would actually result in no loss of coho salmon to the valley. Also this period is at the option of ADF&G if sockeye management requires it. The net increase in sockeye harvest would be 50,000 sockeye headed for the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. You then imply that coho stocks for the Little Susitna are threatened by this action. How can zero increase in harvest threaten this stock. But more importantly coho escapements have been met the last three years and you had to go back 10 years to make your statistics. You failed to point out the Board of Fish took action in 2014 along with the ADF&G use of emergency order authority to meet Little Susitna escapement goals. Those actions remain in place. Lets go on with the misdirection and misuse of data. You claim that the State must manage for the public good but fail to note that most Alaskans get their salmon from the commercial market. Certainly that is a public good and your economic data is skewed and you know it. The authors of the economic studies have all pointed out that the type of analysis you did was wrong in comparing the fisheries. Like you said biologists are not economist and neither is a journalist. More – sure. You link Ruffner with Maw and claim he impersonated after a character attack on Maw. So when you lose a position on data revert to character attacks on Ruffner by linking him to Maw. Ruffner is well respected in our community and State for his honest approach to issues. The fact you did not like his analysis is more a reflection on your lack of knowledge and character than his. Is there more- yes again. You claim the Northern District chinook fishery was not restricted further. Again, you fail to provide any data. Recent estimates of chinook estimates into the Susitna are in the 100,000 to 150,000 range. The total Northern District harvest is less than 1% of this figure and you failed to mention the commercial fishery is closed around the streams of concern you listed. They have been for years. So why did the staff not speak up at the Board of Fish meeting to support sport fisherman. Because unlike you in this article they have some integrity. They do not let the funding source compromise their professional responsibility to provide data that the Board can rely on. If they advocated as you suggest the process would be polluted with claims of bias and favoritism. Funding sources should never influence a resource agency positions. So in the end the net changes the Board made were minor, not used all the time as directed to the Department, had no measureable impact on ND coho, put more fish in the Kenai River for sport and PU fisherman, did not threaten the ND chinook stocks, were done in the public good.

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    • Ken: just a few small points in order of importance: 1.) funding sources always influence bureaucratic decisions unless trumped by larger political powers. it’s naive to think otherwise. politic power in this case mutes part of ADF&G, and you know it. 2.) there is no mixed-stock gillnet fishery in the world fishing so clean as to claim no net loss of a non-target species, as in your claim for a UCI opening that will “actually result in no loss of coho salmon.” the loss is likely to be small if the timing is right, and it’s concievable that with luck it could be zero. but you know better than to a make a blanket claim like you just did. 3.) the Northern District Chinook fishery is operating on several stocks of concern. there is no plan in place to protect those stocks. there is no plan in place to rebuild those stocks. the Chinook surpluses involved can all be harvested elsewhere with no threat to the stocks of concern. and there was an agreement in 1985, an agreement of which i am sure you are well aware, that this commercial fishery was being opened only to catch Chinook that exceed “spawning needs and (are) not being harvested by sport fishermen.” the agreement at the time was that if that changed the fishery would close. that has changed. the agreement has not been kept, but the worse part is that the fishery is killing Chinook that are from those stocks of concerns. hopefully it is only a small number, but then again we don’t know, which is the problem inherent in mixed stock fisheries. 4.) if you have some evidence to back your claim “that most Alaskans get their salmon from the commercial market,” cite it. i certainly haven’t found any evidence for that claim one way or the other. and even if there was some data indicating this is true based on salmon sales, it would be hard to sort out whether these Alaskans are getting Cook Inlet salmon or Bristol Bay salmon or, for that matter, farmed salmon given the problems with salmon labeling. but where most Alaskans get their salmon has nothing to do with the economic issue in CI anyway. the economic issue that needs to be dealt with there is simple: how does the state get the most value per pound on CI salmon. i admit i don’t know the answer to that question. it’s among the many reasons i’d love to see an economic analysis of the PU fishery. i’ve always thought of it as providing the lowest return per pound, but after listening to my neighbor (a commercial fisherman) expound on all the shit people buy to go dipnetting – nets, boats, four-wheelers, etc., etc. – i’m starting to wonder if maybe my view as someone whose investment up until last year was a dipnet he pulled out of the Copper River 30 years ago and a cheap Coleman cooler is wrong. if the PU fishery is driving sizable expenditures in the consumer economy, it might be producing a far bigger economic bang per pound than i ever imagined and thus warrant a bigger allocation than i happen to think it deserves. 5.) i am not an economist, and neither are you. but it does appear you accept my view that economics matter. along those lines, i would hope you would support the idea of adding an economist or two to the staff at ADF&G because we’re obviously in agreement that “biologists are not economists.” and the board could clearly use some help in sorting out what is in the best economic interests of the whole of the Alaska economy in making allocation decision. 6.) i linked Ruffner and Maw only because the former filled the latter’s seat and because the former was clearly playing to the Maw constituency at the last board meeting. i didn’t suggest that Ruffner is Maw and wouldn’t. Ruffner appears to have a lot more personal integrity. he’s appeared to try to answer every question i put to him honestly. i do wish he’d stuck a little more closely to his conservation convictions at the last board meeting, but then again i recognize where he lives. 7.) lastly, your conclusions on the outcome of the board meeting could prove to be right. i personally hope they are right. but you’ve painted the most optimistic outcome. in the more pessimistic view, the changes were significant, will have measurable impact on ND coho, will put less fish in the Kenai river for sport and PU fishermen (given the lowered in-river goals for weaker runs) and did threaten the ND Chinook stocks. frankly, i hope you’re right and i’m wrong. i’ll leave the question of the “public good” to another day because the reality is that given the lack of economic data neither one of us really has a clue as to whether the board acted in the public good. and the board wasn’t worrying about the public goodanyway as the chairman made clear when he observed that he thought too much had been taken away from commercial fishermen by past boards and this board was giving back. that’s the fundamental problem with the whole process. the board doesn’t see its job as weighing the public good; the board sees its job as mediating between special interests. that’s probably our biggest difference, too. you see the issue as protecting a special interest. i see the issue as trying to figure out how the state fosters economic growth going forward. the commercial fishery is a no-growth business. we sealed that deal with limited entry. there are, however, other ways we can increase the overall economic value of Alaska salmon. that matters to me because, unlike you, i don’t have a nice, fat tier 1 retirement package from the state of Alaska. my life depends on where Alaska’s economy goes in the future. i can’t afford to retire to Soldotna and live out my life in comfort thanks to the generosity of past Alaska legislatures while celebrating the fact the Alaska economy has gone in the tank and i no longer have to scream at all those people to “GET OFF MY LAWN!” because a goodly chunk of them have up and left the state. in my view, the fish come first; the overall economic value to Alaska comes second; and the interest groups, all of them, come third. this board sort of flipped that order on its head.

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  4. Too all that choose to comment without paying attention to the facts and write with personal greed in their windshield. I sat all 14 days at the Board of fish once again. All must remember that all river systems have a carrying capacity(that means the river will only support a certain amount of fish spawning and rearing)that capacity gets altered when habitat gets compromised either from in river use or developement in the watershed. So to think fill the river with fish will make more fish is certainly a fantasy. Since the development and in river use has compermised the rivers. One also has to keep in mind the invasive northern pike eating its fill of salmon smolt. Until in river things get fixed what once was may never be obtainable again. In closing one has to be careful not to set ones expectations around a high point in the harvest bell curve no matter which user group you claim to be from. Over escapement has been scientifically prove to not be sustainable.

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    • Dan: over-escapement has been proven to lead to what has been called “foregone harvest” on the order of 5 to 20 percent. there is no history – absolutely none – of a salmon fishery made unsustainable by over-escapement. there is, however, a long history of salmon fisheries devastated by over-harvest. even in the case of the Pacific Northwest, with its huge dam problem (pun intended), over-harvest has been shown to be as big a problem, sometimes bigger, than anything happening in-river. this in-river stuff in AK is largely a straw man. http://akssfapm.s3.amazonaws.com/APM_Uploads/2003/45462/.pdf/sp0717.pdf

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      • That is false, overescapement leads to high mortality of smolt , eating all the plankton, and the surviving smolt have reduced size and that also leads to high mortality in the ocean. Every river has a carrying capacity , and the record Kenai red run in 1987 of 10 million reds came from and escapement of just over 400,000 reds, the smolt were normal to large size and had better survival. You are promoting fake news on your site unfortunately. The red run took a big hit after the Exxon oil spill with an escapement of 4 million reds, the plankton basically disappeared for many years in the lakes , the surviving plankton moved to lower strata. Commercial fishing is a useful tool in managing the salmon fisheries , creating a sustainable yearly run. Removing the commercial fishers would leave an unmanaged fishery, reduced run size would result and then who are you going to blame for the poor fishing success by all the users. Concerning the king run in the Kenai, the average size of the fish is getting smaller because the regulations allow for harvest of the largest fish, removing them from the gene pool., that is a no brainer, The guides are allowed to target spawning kings from the early run , that needs to stop , or it may be too late.

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      • yes, Dave, if 10 million sockeye per year were allowed into the Kenai watershed for years production would likely fall. it would be an interesting experiment. but the discussion with Dan Anderson wasn’t about productivity, it was about sustainability.

        and, to repeat, there is no record of any natural system every destroying itself by producing too many salmon. the same cannot be side of over-harvest. there are fisheries that have been killed off by over harvest.

        the Canadians have been studying the escapement issue along their coast a lot longer than we’ve been studying it on the Kenai. here are their conclusions: “The effects of over-escapement can be examined most simply by plotting spawners and their
        resulting recruits and looking for extremely low recruits associated with extremely large previous
        spawning escapements. Walters et al. (2004) did such an analysis for 21 B.C. sockeye
        populations, including 18 in the Fraser River watershed, and found that,’There is no evidence of
        catastrophic decrease or collapse in recruitment per spawner at the highest spawning stocks.’
        Nonetheless, they did find a few years and stocks in which total returns came in less than the
        number of parental spawners (or less than about twice the number of effective female spawners
        for Fraser stocks, since females constitute about half of the spawners). However, those cases
        were unusual and did not lead to subsequent stock collapse or persistent extremely low
        abundances.” https://www.watershed-watch.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Exh-748-Final.pdf

        the Fraser has been studied much longer than the Kenai. it is a highly productive sockeye system in part because it’s in a warm part of the continent. it’s simple ecological fact that the environmental carrying capacity of warm areas is greater than that of cold areas. give that and the size of its watershed, it should be predicted to produce more fish than the Kenai.

        that said, i would direct your attention to pages 17 and 18 of the above linked study. it has some nice tables of returns per spawner for the Fraser and for a variety of watersheds here in Alaska. in our good years on the Kenai, we have been at a ratio of about 6-to-1. that’s probably not a realistic long-term average to work around. you might notice there are a lot of two and threes in that table.

        three or four might be a more realistic average for the Kenai over the span of tens of decades.

        those of us who were around in the 1980s watching salmon issues well remember the failure of the commercial hatchery business in the Pacific Northwest. Weyerhauser and others were going to make millions by ranching salmon, which is what we now do in Prince William Sound. it didn’t work,and the reason was simple. the PNW businesses were built around an expected return of 1 to 2 percent of the smolt they released.

        they averaged a return about one half of a percent: http://www.upi.com/Archives/1985/09/08/Aquaculture-A-promise-unfulfilled-After-12-years-and-millions-of-dollars-no-profit/4977495000000/

        they had control over their smolt. their were none of the supposed problems of over-escapement. they were releasing big, healthy smolt into the ocean (even devising ways to arrange those releases to protect smolt from early predation) and still they were getting weak returns.

        the ocean is not a farm. it is a wilderness. farmers survive by controlling variables that reduce productivity. wilderness does what wilderness does.

        there seem to be some commercial fihermen like yourself who think the Board of Fish can set some magical, low-ball escapement goal for the Kenai – ignoring the danger of damage to salmon stocks throughout Cook Inlet likely from heavy fishing on mixed stocks dominated by Kenai sockeye, the ecological needs of the entire Kenai watershed and the in-river fishermen who have a legitimate claim to some small portion of this public resource – that will make the Kenai produce like a farm.

        the Kenai is not a farm.

        i fully understand where from you come. were i in your boots, i might well be making the same arguments you make. certainly an old friend of mine (possibly a former old friend now), makes arguments similar to yours. they are arguments aimed at protecting her own self interest, not wisely managing a public resource for the good of all Alaskans. i understand that. i don’t fault her or any other commercial fisherman for this.

        it’s actually what you SHOULD be doing. this is how capitalism works.

        but it’s not what the Board of Fish should be doing. the Board’s primary purpose is to protect Alaska’s wild resources from the forces of capitalism. the Board’s main job is to serve as the state’s buffer against the well documented tragedy of the commons – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons.

        the Board’s secondary purpose is to weigh the economic returns likely from the businesses competing to harvest a limited return of salmon and determine how best the harvest can be distributed to maximize the value to all of the citizens of the state. and it’s tertiary purpose is to settle on how those individual Alaska who want fish for themselves, a minority among us, are accommodated.

        average Alaskans can, of course, argue over what comes second and third in that list of responsibilities. i economic value ahead of personal value only because that’s the way we treat other state resources. the state doesn’t let me take oil out of the pipeline to refine it at home, or head on up to Pogo to dig around in the mine to fill my pockets with gold.

        but there’s no argument about the Board’s number one job. and the when the Board this year allowed the continuation of a commercial fishery that harvests on a mixed stock of salmon containing no less than six stocks of concern, it got a big “F” for sustainability. and when it decided to potentially up the pressure on a second mixed stock of fish with a lot of problems in the form of Susitna sockeye, it got a D-.

        i’ll leave it to individual Alaskans to decide the grades on the hugely complicated and difficult issue of how to share the catch. you clearly want to give the Board a high-grade for avoiding the bogey-man of over-escapement. i’m sure there are in-river fishermen who hold the opposite view. the best way to take fish away from Kenai River dipnetters and anglers is to ratchet down the in-river goal for Kenai sockeye.

        the board chairman was pretty frank in assessing that. he said he thought Upper Cook Inlet sockeye had been taken away from commercial fishermen and the Board was going to give them back. there’s only two places from which those fish can come: the harvest pool containing anglers and Kenai personal-use dipnetters, or the spawning escapement.

        well, actually, you can take some from both, but as someone with a bias toward conservation, i’d prefer the dipnetters and anglers pay the price. and yes, i freely admit to conservation leanings. it’s no doubt a bias, but not all bias is bad. i also favor intelligence over stupidity and equal treatment under the law over discrimination. so be it.

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  5. We’ve looked at the economics of sport fishing in Alaska. It showed that sport anglers generated over a billion dollars. I link to the findings and report below, which is much more recent than the 1993 ISER report. Why not earmark some funding so ADF&G can repeat that study to update the numbers?

    “In 2007, 475,534 resident and nonresident licensed anglers fished 2.5 million days in Alaska and spent nearly $1.4 billion on licenses and stamps, trip-related expenditures, pre-purchased packages, and equipment and real estate used for fishing. The $1.4 billion of angler spending in Alaska supported 15,879 jobs in Alaska and provided $545 million of income.”

    http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/fedaidpdfs/pp08-01.pdf

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  6. Craig, you made some good points but it is the legislature who confirms the BOF appointments so it is up to them to track decisions on who should be confirmed. Tell people to call their legislatures and be informed. Most people are totally ignorant on said process. Keep on buddy

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  7. As always your biased reporting, cherry picking of the facts and fear mongering make for a completely inaccurate representation of what went on at the board of fish. You should be ashamed of yourself for writing such trash.

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    • “fear mongering?” really, Eric? really? i do plead guilty to a bias toward conservation of salmon stocks. overfishing is as great a threat to fisheries as habitat degradation. sometimes, in fact, it’s a greater threat. the rest we can argue about forever. all reporting picks facts. if you want to accuse someone of cherry picking, you need to be way more specific. and before you even start on that exercise, i’d suggest you click on the many, many links in that story and see where from the facts came and decide whether all those sources are also complicit in cherry picking.

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  8. Shameful actions by those who are supposed to protect the resources of Alaska. Too bad some groups like Trout unlimited or the CCA would sue for protection of endangered stocks.

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  9. So apparently out-of-state commercial salmon fleets own Alaska’s salmon, and Alaska residents who enjoy dipnetting and sportfishing get the leftovers they graciously allow us. Got it.

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  10. Hello Craig,

    Thanks for another balanced presentation of the resource allocation pickle that we find ourselves in… still.

    I think that part of the problem many Alaskans have with the Board of Fisheries is that the process of selection and confirmation of the individual members is out of sight / out of mind until it’s too late. In addition, the lists of how each board member voted on particular subjects isn’t readily available to find. I haven’t been able to locate the meeting notes on which board members sided with the commercial set netters and which board members sided with the rest of Alaskans. I’ve looked on the Board of Fisheries webpage, however, this information is not readily available to see (and look, I’ve got to go to work, guess I’ll let this one lie… never to be addressed until the next time that Alaskans get hosed and I resolve to make my voice heard… again…). Like akoutdoor said – all you’ve got to do is call / write your legislators and tell them how to vote on the confirmation hearings, however, I don’t want to tell my senator and house rep to pull an actual conservationist out and replace him / her with another fishing industry shill. I want maximum economic value for our natural resources, I’m just not sure who needs to go. I know that Sue Jeffrey, Reed Morisky and John Jensen (thanks again akoutdoor!) are all up for confirmation next month, however, can you provide the information on how each member voted so that we can be a little more edjamicated when contacting our legislators?

    Thanks again for “pokin’ the bear”!

    Jack

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  11. It’s an easy fix. Call your legislator and tell them to vote NO on John Jensen’s re-appointment to the Board of Fisheries next mouth.

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