Burn, baby burn

no fishing

With Gov. Bill Walker headed to the Kenai Peninsula to calm angry commercial fishermen, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game just threw fuel on the latest fish-war fire.

As of Monday, the agency says, the bag limit for sockeye salmon on the Kenai River will go from three to one fish per day, and the personal-use dipnet fishery will close. 

The agency has now decided the Kenai River run is in such bad shape that it may fall short of a  new, yet-again-lower, goal of 700,000 sockeye in-river. About 368,000 have made it back so far, according to the state’s fish-counting sonar.

“Sockeye salmon passage by the sonar at river mile 19 have been behind this season, but other indicators suggested perhaps a late run timing,” Cook Inlet sport fish management coordinator Matt Miller said in a prepared statement.

The Commercial Fisheries Division gambled on the Kenai run being late and allowed commercial fishing to go on steadily in the early season despite indications of problems for sockeye stocks in the Copper River, on Kodiak Island, and at Chignik.

Almost 665,000 sockeye have been caught in the Cook Inlet commercial gillnet fisheries to date.  Fisheries managers let commercial fishermen fish regular periods unrestrained from late June up until Tuesday in the belief the fish were coming back as normal.

The commercial harvest peaked at 156,000 during the July 12 opening. Harvests fell steadily after that although former Fish Board member Roland Maw appeared to have a very good day.  

Fishing was so reported to be so bad Tuesday that many driftnet fishermen were heading back to port before the period ended. The drift fleet catch for the day ended up being almost as many coho (silver salmon) as sockeye, something that is not supposed to happen when the sockeye run is peaking.

Or is supposed to be peaking.




Categories: News

25 replies »

  1. “Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan Fund – 1,686 loans were outstanding with principal totaling $94,024,200. The average loan ending FY2016 was $55,800 and the year ended delinquency rate was 2.0%. New loans were down in FY2017 but extensions were up. Saved or created 751 jobs as a result of commercial fishing loan activity in FY2017.”

    (Not sure how they arrive at the 751 jobs figure, nor is there any indication as to whether or not those jobs are filled by Alaskan residents.)

    “Fisheries Enhancement Revolving Loan Fund – 119 loans with $62,486,200 in outstanding principal balance for an average loan of $525,100. The five-year average of the ex-vessel value of hatchery-reared salmon to commercial harvesters is $131 million.”

    So just between those two programs the State of Alaska has $156.5 million “invested” in the commercial fishery. Certainly that’s enough money to create a potential conflict of interest in terms of managing the fishery for the interests of all Alaskan residents, not to mention a disincentive to favor wild salmon runs over increased hatchery output.

    I agree that $400K is a ridiculous amount of debt for most fisherman to assume, especially considering applicants must present evidence of denial from traditional funding sources, and collateral for hatcheries can include future projected revenues from the enhancement tax. I suspect some of these guys are in way over their heads, but surely the legislature would not have raised the cap to $400K had there not been a demand for loans of that magnitude. Luckily the delinquency rate appears to be low, at least for the time being.

  2. Too many management variables. Time to simplify. No more dipnetting. Dipnetting is a late addition variable to the management equation. To try and predict when a surge of fish will occur at one poinr on the river to appease the entitlement dippers is ridiculous. Get back to the basics of the 80s when fish management was better. Get rid of dipnetting and the crybaby entitlement crowd that are an embarassment to Alaska.

    • James, do you really believe that the over 100 thousand Alaskans that are able to put salmon in their freezers and on their tables are cry babies and an embarrassment to Alaska. All they are doing is using legislation and regulations as they are intended. If you have a problem with the law which the dip net folks follow, instead of insulting these good people, maybe you should try to change the law.

  3. Maybe some of under served sporties should show up at that meeting to see what the Governor can do to help all the small businesses that fuel the economy …

  4. So, say you are the State of Alaska and your “Commercial Lending Office” decides each permit holder is allowed to accrue a maximum debt of $400,000 per fishing operation (permit, boat, new nets, engine over haul, etc) with “1,300 permit holders (735 set net/569 drift net” in the Alaskan Comm Fish Mafia, then the industry debt could be as high as $520,000,000 to the state.
    Add in the 25 Hatcheries throughout the state (who are each allowed 10 million a piece in state low interest loans) and you get another $250,000,000.
    This is without adding any other data sets from other “Commercial Lending” programs like Charter Boats, Logging Equipment, etc
    This is without federal or small business aid (of which there is plenty).
    You can already see the matrix in which 3/4 of a BILLION dollars may be tied up in debt for the current commercial fish ranching paradigm in AK.
    And why is conventional “fish farming” not allowed?
    How is this business model more efficient?
    This is NOT sustainable in any way and increasing the monoculture of Pink Salmon to fill in the gaps of lower returns on other natural salmon runs is a disaster in the making.
    Any reputable biologist will tell you there is safety in biodiversity, a mono culture is more at risk for environmental changes or disease.

    • Steve, as I understand it only Alaskans are eligible for CFAB loans and even those have to have certain qualifications under their belt. My guess is that less than 1 in 5 has a loan at all and none are anywhere near $400 grand.
      I’m unsure of what your point is other than to muddy the waters-for what purpose? You are almost as bad as Craig is with his numbers for Copper River losses based on the first period’s price for sockeyes when almost none were caught.

      • excuse me, Bill; it’s your belief Cordova gillnetters DIDN’T lose a potential small-fortune? they lost a potential big pile of money. i feel for them.

      • Bill, you are correct that the state subsidized fisheries loan program is limited to Alaskan residents. But there is evidence that there are numerous loan holders with balances exceeding $300K. In Jan 2017 the House held a hearing on HB 56 which was proposed to increase the loan cap from $300K to $400K. According to testimony by Britteny Cioni-Haywood, of the Division of Economic Development (DED), Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED) “no current borrow [sic] has an outstanding principle of $400,000, and 16 borrowers have outstanding balances of $300,000. Regarding the number of applications received for a $300,000 loan, she offered to provide further information, and pointed out that a typical application would be for a lesser, initial amount, and other loans would be added to the balance over time, with an absolute cap of $400,000.” Ironically, these loans are administrated by the DCCED “Investments Section.”

        Loans through this program can also be obtained for up to $2 million for community quota entities (CQE’s) and $10 million for fisheries enhancement programs (aka hatchery operations).

        It is muddy water, but it would certainly be interesting to see the exact figure reflecting just how heavily invested the State is in funding the commercial fishing industry.

      • Craig, clearly PWS fishermen lost money by the missing million Copper River reds but my comment was referring to the ridiculous numbers you throw around using the first period price for those reds and multiplying that price by the missing reds. It’s just a supply and demand thing that you certainly know about and the early price never holds up as soon as the fish show up.
        That fishery is nothing like most other fisheries in that those fish are almost entirely sold fresh and the price fluctuates depending on the numbers caught that period with the price collapsing when the numbers approach 100k. The total first two periods fish totaled 38k and the price remained high but would not have remained anything like that had the fish showed up.
        Nothing wrong with suggesting they lost a pile of money, just that using that early price for the total lost fish is clearly an alternative fact IMO.

      • Laura, while there are numerous loans around $300k, that just reflects the increased prices involved in fishing some fisheries. What I objected to was Steve’s multiplying the total number of permits by the maximum amount of the loan to do what??
        I suspect the numbers you are looking for are available in the total amount loaned out (statewide) that do not come anywhere near the total amount that Steve came up with just for Cook Inlet fishery ($520 million). Frankly, it would be almost impossible to justify a $400k investment in that fishery as the numbers need to make sense. Further, the loan recipient needs to also put up something which makes the numbers even more ridiculous.

      • Bill it’s nice to read your informed insights on the fisheries details. Helps give a full picture. It also provoked other folks to provide info . Nice

      • Really Ramey?
        “Informed Insights” by Bill???
        Apparently you are not following how he argued (in prior articles) that the 25 PNP hatcheries are not state subsidized?
        Well, it turns out that the State has over $156 MILLION dumped into low interest loans for the commercial ranching paradigm in effect right now.
        $10 Million for each hatchery is available….$400 K for each Fisher Person with permit.
        Where is the State getting this cash or credit from? China? Our PF? Carlyle Group?
        These figures do not even include federal funding and small business loans available to the industry.
        Does this sound like the former Soviet Union?… Well, it should.
        This is not the “free market” or Capitalism as we once knew it in America.
        It does explain why I am not allowed to fish for Kings in my local stream even though the Little Willow met it’s escapement goal last year for the species…

      • “Now do you see what Friedrich Hayek meant when he said that socialism puts a society on the road to serfdom? Protectionism — government coercion supplanting the voluntary transactions of markets in the allocation of wealth and opportunity — is socialism for the well connected. But, then, all socialism favors those adept at manipulating the state. As government expands its lawless power to reward and punish, the sphere of freedom contracts. People become wary and reticent lest they annoy those who wield the administrative state as a blunt instrument.” George Will

    • All of the drifters I know own their boats & permits. No loans, no debt. Each boat is a small family business.

  5. So once again the burden of conservation will be shouldered by the sport and dip net fishers. All while the Drift and set net fleet are permitted to harvest Kings, Sockeyes, and Silvers. Something has to change!

    • Keep looking on Craigslist just a few weeks ago there was ample opportunity to get in on some of last year’s entitlement fish. No need to change that.

    • I feel for the sport and dipnetters, but as an Alaskan business owner I can’t tell you how many tourists say they first got the idea of coming here to fish for salmon after eating Alaskan salmon somewhere in the lower 48. This helps all Alaskan businesses not only the sport fishers, some of these people also hunt stay at hotels spend money at restaurants etc. The commercial fishery is important PR for Alaskans. Closing the commercial fishery is a very bad idea and should be avoided if at all possible.

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