With many in the Alaska fishing community asking what transpired when Gov. Bill Walker and Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten met with commercial fishermen in Kenai on Friday, a video of the lengthy meeting is being posted by craigmedred.news on YouTube.
The video was first streamed live on Facebook by Sarah Vance, a Republican candidate for the State House from Homer. The meeting with the governor was hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association (KPFA) in the offices of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association.
KPFA is a commercial fishing advocacy group that formed in 1954.
Commercial fishermen are angry about the closure of fishing in Cook Inlet because of an abysmally weak run of sockeye salmon to the Kenai River. As of today, only 420,000 of the fish have returned with the run more than half over.
The in-river goal is 900,000. Last year at this time, the fish were returning at the rate of 20,000 to 70,000 per day even though commercial fishermen were catching tens of thousands per day in the Inlet.
Commercial fishermen have now been shut down for a week, and despite the closure, the Sunday return was only 12,000 sockeye, but it was better than Saturday when the return was 9,000.
State fisheries managers say the commercial shutdown is vital to protect the Kenai run. Cotten told commercial fishermen the closure is about conservation, not politics. He was shouted down for failing to also close a personal-use dipnet fishery at the same time. (1:00:30).
The dipnet fishery, which in good years provides food for the freezers of about 30,000 Alaska permit holders, is a density-dependent fishery. Catch-rates are low at entry levels of 30,000 fish and under. The fishery harvested fewer than 300,000 fish last year.
The catch this year is expected to be a fraction of that. The commercial fishery had harvested 678,000 sockeye prior to the closure.