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The beaches of Cook Inlet were quiet and the waters empty Wednesday as the return of late-run sockeye salmon to Alaska’s fabled Kenai River appeared to be coming to an end at last.

With a healthy escapement of more than 1 million fish in-river and daily counts now falling from near 20,000 three days ago to less than 1,500 on Tuesday, the run looks set to tie for the latest on record since 1979.

But once again, controversy is brewing.

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association has accused the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) of violating the intent if not the letter of the law with an unprecedented opening of commercial drift-net fishing for salmon throughout much of Upper Cook Inlet on Aug. 23.

Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten, a former commercial fisherman, on that date used his emergency order authority to override the Central District Drift Gillnet Management Plan approved by the Board of Fisheries (BOF).

The governor-appointed, Legislature-approved Fish Board is the state agency that sets fishing seasons, bag limits and harvest methods designed to spread the salmon catch among commercial, sport, personal-use and subsistence fisheries all around the Inlet that laps at the beaches of  Alaska’s largest city.

Cotten’s emergency order, according to KRSA, “ignored long-standing regulations that restrict the commercial fleet to the extreme west side of Cook Inlet after August 15.  The decision by ADF&G violates explicit Alaska Board of Fisheries allocation intent in all Upper Cook Inlet salmon management plans.”

Commercial aid

At the time the order was issued, area biologist Brian Marston estimated there were about 45,000 Kenai sockeye in the Inlet still on their way back to the river. He expected about 50 of the Inlet’s 573 commercial drift permit holders to cast a net for the fish at the tail-end of what has been a miserable season for commercial fishermen in the Inlet.

As it turned out, only 29 boats fished, and they caught but 209 sockeye. They did far better, however, on coho – a species prized by anglers and the reason for the Aug. 15 closure of the east side of the Inlet. That angered KRSA, the state’s most active and visible sportfishing group.

The late-August closure, KRSA pointed out, was specifically intended to ensure “a sport fish priority for coho salmon heading to Anchorage, the Mat-Su and the Kenai River.”

KRSA executive director Ricky Gease said Cotten set a bad precedent with his action.

“ADF&G went outside the management plan without justification and as a result prioritized commercial harvests of coho salmon over sport fisheries,” he said in a press release. “About three-quarters of the fish harvested by commercial drifters on August 23 were coho salmon heading for rivers that are popular with anglers.”

ADF&G has in the past made it a policy to avoid overriding BOF ordered fishery closures. A request from former Alaska Rep. Les Gara, R-Alaska, to Cotten to extend the dipnet season last year because of a slow early returns of sockeye fell on deaf ears even though plenty of surplus sockeye were Kenai bound.

This year the dipnet fishery, like the commercial fishery,  was shut down early because of the weakness of the sockeye run in July. It was never reopened to give dipnetters a second chance at sockeye when the run came on unusually strong in August.

Late fish

Historically, the average midpoint of the late-run sockeye return is July 23. Only twice since 1979 has the midpoint come in August. This year now looks like it is going to match 2006 for the latest midpoint – Aug. 3.

That would mark this one of only three years on record in which more sockeye returned to the Kenai in August than in July. Marston said he has no idea why. Neither does anyone else.

And though Fish and Game ended up meeting the in-river goal for salmon, the season was a major disappointment. Dipnet catches are expected to be down significantly. The fishing was so bad a lot of dipnetters didn’t even bother to make the 150- to 200-mile drive from Anchorage or the Matanuska-Susitna Borough south to the Kenai.

The City of Kenai reported traffic was down about a third in the pay-to-park service area it runs for dipnetters near the mouth of the river. Dipnetters usually fuel the city’s only profit-making service, but it looked to be more of a break-even affair this year once the management costs were weighed against the small dipnet turnout.

Meanwhile, commercial fishermen suffered a major blow in the Inlet where the season’s catch fell just short of 814,000. That was less than half the forecast commercial catch of 1.9 million. Another 700,000 sockeye were expected to be caught in the dipnet, sport and subsistence fisheries.

Fishery managers are still assessing the catch in those fisheries, but expect it will be under 500,000 fish, probably well under 500,000 fish. But even if the combined catch for the non-commercial fisheries reaches 400,000, a one-third share of the harvest going to those fishermen would be unusual.

Especially coming as it does after BOF actions of a year ago to try to maximize the commercial catch, and a visit by Gov. Bill Walker to the Kenai in July to reassure commercial fishermen that he and Cotten were doing their best to see that the commercial fishery got more fish.

When new Cook Inlet regulations were being set in 2017, BOF chairman John Jensen, a Walker appointee, said the Board was loosening restrictions on commercial fishing in order to “allocate some more fish to the commercial fishermen who, in my opinion, gave them up.”

Many commercial fishermen, however, remain of the belief they are being treated unfairly. They view themselves as a commercial minority being swamped by a majority of fish-hungry urban dipnetters and anglers as the population of the 49th state slowly but steadily grows and tourism ticks upward.

Many were angry they were ordered to the beach in the later part of July even though the dipnet fishery continued for days after with the dipnetters catching a few fish. The problem for fishery managers was that there weren’t enough fish to risk a commercial opening.

Testifying before the state Senate Resources Committee in March of last year, Jensen explained that Inlet is difficult to manage because there are too many fishermen and too few salmon most years, and everyone is trying to catch fish in a small window of time.

Last year, he said, “setnetters were severely restricted…because a lot of them leave to go to their other jobs. Cook Inlet is not one of the biggest commercial fishing areas and has an over-prescription of permits. Most people have other jobs in order to support their fishing habit.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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38 replies »

  1. Read any ADFG comment on any BOF proposal since statehood. If a proposal to the BOF is in anyway related to allocation, the department states unilaterally to any allocative aspect of a BOF proposal that the department is neutral on the allocative aspects of any BOF proposal, as the department DOES NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO ALLOCATE FISH IN ALASKA.

    That means if and when the ADFG Commissioner issues an emergency order, it has to be based on a conservation issue (like projecting going above or below an escapement goal), not an allocative issue. We all know Governor Walker is in the hip pocket of Cook Inlet commercial drift gill netters, but the separation of conservation and allocation applies equally to this administration as well.

    Steve, if the decision by definition cannot be related to going above or below a sockeye escapement goal based on data available to ADFG on August 22 when the EO was released, what COHO escapement in Upper Cook Inlet was being VIOLATED to authorize the Commissioner and Department to authorize the commercial drift fleet to fish in Area 1 to meet an established escapement goal in Upper Cook Inlet for silvers, to VIOLATE the regulations established through a half century of public process established by the Alaska Board of Fisheries?

    Awaiting breathlessly for your answer. Have an enjoyable Labor Day weekend.

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    • You’ve just argued against the case you are trying to make.

      Please let me know of any coho escapement in Cook Inlet.

      Read the plan, it’s all there. You are the one who claimed it wasn’t being followed now you are running from it.

      Take you emotions and monetary dependency out of the equation and get back to me.

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  2. 5 AAC 21.353. Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan
    (a) The purpose of this management plan is to ensure adequate escapement of salmon into the Northern District drainages and to provide management guidelines to the department. The department shall manage the commercial drift gillnet fishery to minimize the harvest of Northern District and Kenai River coho salmon in order to provide sport and guided sport fishermen a reasonable opportunity to harvest these salmon stocks over the entire run, as measured by the frequency of inriver restrictions. The department shall manage the Central District commercial drift gillnet fishery as described in this section.
    (b) The regular weekly fishing periods are as described in 5 AAC 21.320(b). The fishing season will open the third Monday in June or June 19, whichever is later.
    (c) From July 9 through July 15,
    (1) fishing during the first regular fishing period and second regular fishing period is restricted to the Expanded Kenai and Expanded Kasilof Sections of the Upper Subdistict and Drift Gillnet Area 1;
    (2) at run strengths greater than 2,300,000 sockeye salmon to the Kenai River, the commissioner may, by emergency order, open one additional 12-hour fishing period in the Expanded Kenai and Expanded Kasilof Sections of the Upper Subdistrict and Drift Gillnet Area 1;
    (3) additional fishing time under this subsection is allowed only in the Expanded Kenai and Expanded Kasilof Sections of the Upper Subdistrict.
    (d) From July 16 through July 31,
    (1) at run strengths of less than 2,300,000 sockeye salmon to the Kenai River, fishing during all regular 12-hour fishing periods will be restricted to the Expanded Kenai and Expanded Kasilof Sections of the Upper Subdistrict;
    (2) at run strengths of 2,300,000 – 4,600,000 sockeye salmon to the Kenai River,
    (A) fishing during one regular 12-hour fishing period per week will be restricted to one or more of the following sections and areas:
    (i) Expanded Kenai Section of the Upper Subdistrict;
    (ii) Expanded Kasilof Section of the Upper Subdistrict;
    (iii) Anchor Point Section of the Lower Subdistrict;
    (iv) Drift Gillnet Area 1; notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraph (d)(2)(A) of this section, one regular 12-hour fishing period from July 16 through July 31 may occur in the Central District instead of in Drift Gillnet Area 1;
    (B) the remaining weekly 12-hour regular fishing period will be restricted to one or more of the following sections:
    (i) Expanded Kenai Section;
    (ii) Expanded Kasilof Section;
    (iii) Anchor Point Section;
    (3) at run strengths greater than 4,600,000 sockeye salmon to the Kenai River, one regular 12-hour fishing period per week will be restricted to the Expanded Kenai, Expanded Kasilof, and Anchor Point Sections;
    (4) additional fishing time under this subsection is allowed only in one or more of the following sections:
    (A) Expanded Kenai Section;
    (B) Expanded Kasilof Section;
    (C) Anchor Point Section.
    (e) From August 1 through August 15, there are no mandatory area restrictions to regular fishing periods, except that if the Upper Subdistrict set gillnet fishery is closed under 5 AAC 21.310(b)(2)(C)(iii), or the department determines that less than one percent of the season’s total drift gillnet sockeye salmon harvest has been taken per fishing period for two consecutive fishing periods in the drift gillnet fishery, regular fishing periods will be restricted to Drift Gillnet Areas 3 and 4. In this subsection, “fishing period” means a time period open to commercial fishing as measured by a 24-hour calendar day from 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m.
    (f) From August 16 until closed by emergency order, Drift Gillnet Areas 3 and 4 are open for fishing during regular fishing periods.
    (g) For the purposes of this section,
    (1) “Drift Gillnet Area 1” means those waters of the Central District south of Kalgin Island at 60_ 20.43′ N. lat.;
    (2) “Drift Gillnet Area 2” means those waters of the Central District enclosed by a line from 60_ 20.43′ N. lat., 151_ 54.83′ W. long. to a point at 60_ 41.08′ N. lat., 151_ 39.00′ W. long. to a point at 60_ 41.08′ N. lat., 151_ 24.00′ W. long. to a point at 60_ 27.10′ N. lat., 151_ 25.70′ W. long. to a point at 60_ 20.43′ N. lat., 151_ 28.55′ W. long.;
    (3) “Drift Gillnet Area 3” means those waters of the Central District within one mile of mean lower low water (zero tide) south of a point on the West Foreland at 60_ 42.70′ N. lat., 151_ 42.30′ W. long.;
    (4) “Drift Gillnet Area 4” means those waters of the Central District enclosed by a line from 60_ 04.70′ N. lat., 152_ 34.74′ W. long. to the Kalgin Buoy at 60_ 04.70′ N. lat., 152_ 09.90′ W. long. to a point at 59_ 46.15′ N. lat., 152_ 18.62′ W. long. to a point on the western shore at 59_ 46.15′ N. lat., 153_ 00.20′ W. long., not including the waters of the Chinitna Bay Subdistrict.
    (h) The commissioner may depart from the provisions of the management plan under this section as provided in 5 AAC 21.363(e).

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    • There is no reason to remain ignorant in today’s day and age. We have the technology to find a virtually unlimited amount of factual information with a few key strokes. We don’t need fake news, we just need facts.

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      • U R right

        No reason to remain ignorant in this day and age.

        Cherry-pick: to select the best or most desirable.

        Conflate: combine (two or more texts, ideas, etc.) into one.

        Applicable: capable of or suitable for being applied : appropriate. statutes applicable to the case.

        Use in a sentence: Steve-O conflates cherry-picking with applicability.

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      • That’s cute Mavo.

        Have you read the entire plan you claim is being violated? Or are you simply ignoring the painfully obvious? I trust that you know how to read so I don’t feel the need to literally spell it out for you, but if you really, really want me to I will.

        Or is it that you don’t think the entire plan is applicable now?

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      • Steve O: 5AAC 21.363 (e) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, it is the intent of the board that, while in most circumstances the department will adhere to the management plans in this chapter, no provision within a specific management plan is intended to limit the commissioner’s use of emergency order authority under AS 16.05.060 to achieve established escapement goals for the management plans as the primary management objective. For the purpose of this subsection, “escapement goals” includes inriver goal, biological escapement goal, sustainable escapement goal, and optimal escapement goal as de ned in 5 AAC 39.222.

        NOTICE the part that states to achieve established escapement goals for the management plans as the primary management objective.

        Kenai sockeye were within the escapement goal range at the time of this decision.

        Kasilof sockeye were above the upper end of the escapement range, but the counter was pulled by the date of the decision, so trying to prevent “over escapement” of Kasilof sockeye does not apply in this instance.

        Again, ADFG can go outside an allocation plan if the action applies to meeting an escapement goal, but there was 0 percent of a drift harvest impacting more than de minimus amount after August 15, cause the Kasilof sonar last count was on August 14, a full week before this decision was made.

        So, again, based on a logical and legal reading of 21.353, where does ADFG get the authority to fish this year past August 15 in Area 1, when that plan specially directs the department to only fish the commercial drift fleet in Areas 3 and 4 after August 15?

        The section you cited does not apply this year.

        Thus, by definition, ADFG VIOLATED the plan this year.

        U cool bro if seiners start fishing in the central district? Just because?

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      • I like it Mavo, now we are having a discussion amongst educated individuals! This is good.

        I’m going to have to spend a couple minutes reading and referencing what you wrote since most of it was opinion, but I like the fact that you have read the plan!

        For the record I don’t care if they use drift or seine, I fish both methods decades ago. If I were the fisherman I would choose seine since that is easier, but seines and gillnet each have their place and upper Cook Inlet probably isn’t a friendly place for a seine.

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      • I appreciate our movement towards a mutual understanding. The barrier between the board of fisheries as the authoritative say on allocation issues and the department on conservation issues is important. Blurring that line by a rookie comm fish manager is important to acknowledge and correct but not the end of the world, unless that mistake is interpreted as a meaningful precedent. It should not be interpreted as a meaningful precedent, but as the rookie mistake is was.

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      • “I Appreciate our movement towards a mutual understanding. The barrier between the board of fisheries as the authoritative say on allocation issues and the department on conservation issues is important. Blurring that line by a rookie comm fish manager is important to acknowledge and correct but not the end of the world, unless that mistake is interpreted as a meaningful precedent. It should not be interpreted as a meaningful precedent, but as the rookie mistake is was.”

        I don’t know where this will show up in this thread, but I agree with you on all of it. However I would add that it is all within the plan as written. It was a weird year. And weird decisions were made.

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    • Well then what part of this relates specifically to follow the plan and then after August 15 fish exclusively on Area 3 and 4 ?

      Not following that by definition is going outside the plan.

      Cut and dried unless there is some sort of secret handshake and wink wink nudge nudge English in Alaska is different than other parts of the world.

      Name the specific section you think allows commercial drifters to fish in area 1 after August 15.

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      • I’m not exactly sure what you are asking, but I’m guessing you are asking about this part (f) From August 16 until closed by emergency order, Drift Gillnet Areas 3 and 4 are open for fishing during regular fishing periods.

        That is but one part of the overall plan, you can’t just take one part of a plan and decide that is the only part of the plan, or you have no plan. No secret handshake or wink wink nudge nudge, just plain english. In fact if we were to just take one part of the plan and do that the whole secret handshake or wink wink nudge nudge would be an issue. The entire plan allows commercial drifting to fish area 1 after August 1st. You have to read the entire plan not just snippets.

        The very last sentence says that the commissioner can “depart from the provisions of the management plan”, that means by the plan the commissioner can depart from the plan…which is part of the plan. I didn’t write the plan, I didn’t interpret the plan, I just read the plan. We would be a lot better off if more of us arguing about the plan actual read the plan.

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      • Specifically part (f) From August 16 until closed by emergency order, Drift Gillnet Areas 3 and 4 are open for fishing during regular fishing periods.

        This section does not close any areas, it simply states that certain areas are open during regular fishing periods.

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      • Steve: maybe a map would help: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/regulations/regprocess/fisheriesboard/pdfs/2016-2017/uci/OR08.pdf

        the issue isn’t Areas 3 or 4, but Areas 1 and 2 – the latter being pretty much the sweet spot for finding coho bound for both the MatSu and the Kenai. the coho-weighted catch was pretty much to be expected.

        your first argument – that the commissioner didn’t go outside the plan – is wrong. your second argument – that the EO authority gives him broad power – is correct, which is probably why KSRA didn’t sue the department, though i didn’t think to ask about that.

        the problem with the commissioner using his power in this way in Cook Inlet is the precedent it sets. what Cotten did was unprecedented. the next commissioner who wants to go way outside the plan for whatever reason will now have precedent.

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      • Oh that’s right, there is no specific portion of the plan except being able to go outside the plan. But the final get out of jail free card actually means the Commissioner is all powerful outside the plan.

        Do drifters really want to go there, especially after August 15 when participation is feeble?

        Less than 20 drifters participated in the August 23 fishery and less than 200 reds were harvested.

        The assumption by the regional manager was that some 45,000 reds were in the Inlet, yet less than 1 percent (less than 450 reds) were harvested

        If you really believe the Commissioner has all encompassing power, then that section is relevant to all users, even Seiners. Like the current commissioner’s sons, who would love to bring seiners into the central district in Upper Cook Inlet after August 15 when there are longer the number of drift gillnettets to be effective. Cause the drift fleet harvest on August 23 was limp. I am sure 20 swingers would have caught a lot more sockeyes. Amirite?

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      • Craig,

        Due to the way this site allows comments, I’m not sure what you mean by my first argument. Unless you are saying that my first argument of what the plan says, which has been my argument the entire time…that the plan allows it, which it does by the wording of the plan.

        If the problem is with the commissioner using the plan as written to do what the plan says then ok, we’ve finally gotten somewhere. But the plan, as written allows the commissioner to do what he did. If you, or KRSA wish to change the plan, then just say so and stop beating around the proverbial bush.

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      • Craig Medred the drifters caught roughly 700 Coho on 8/23/18, fishing areas 1, 3, & 4. Fish from all three areas would have been reported together. Last year, on 8/24/17, roughly the same number of drift boats fished just areas 3&4 and caught roughly 6,900 Coho. Why are people assuming that the fish harvested on 8/23/18 came from area 1 when areas 3 & 4 are typically quite productive in August? Seems more probable that they didn’t catch much in the middle, and the majority of the 700 Coho came from near shore on the West Side.

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      • because Area 1 was open?

        but i’m just joking with you Todd. your point is a good one. what you suggest is quite possible.

        clearly the small number of landings would indicate nobody went out there to try and hit it big on sockeye, which does sort of begs the question of why did the Department even bother to open Area 1?

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    • You do understand why the commissioner’s authority to go outside the plan is limited to meeting conservation based goals and not allocative goals?

      The Alaska Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the Legislature is the only entity in the state that can ALLOCATE resources.

      Not the public, through an initiative process, and not the administrative branch either.

      Thus the Alaska Legislature delegates to the Alaska Board of Fisheries the ability to allocate fishery resources.

      ADFG does not have the authority, no more than you or I.

      The Board of Fisheries management plans are primarily allocative, primarily dealing with time, area, methods and means to allocate harvest opportunity.

      ADFG does not get to countermand this allocative authority of the BOF if there is no compelling conservation concern.

      Otherwise, you diminish the allocative and conservation based boundary between the Alaska board of fisheries and the Alaska department of fish and game.

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      • I don’t understand your point, what is the conservation goal you have in mind? It seems like you fail to realize you are continually making the case for the commissioner doing his job.

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  3. Well, I didn’t think it possible but Time for Change was able to do it – mention Obama! I swear to gawd, it’s amazing.

    And then, we have Medred, who is SOOO opposed to biased journal-mal-ism, but can’t say how many cohos were actually caught in this heinous opener because to do so would make him look like an idiot.

    Meanwhile in the actual in-the-round world:

    “ADF&G has received positive reports from sport anglers and guides that they are experiencing above average catch rates across all clear water tributaries in the Susitna River drainage,” stated Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “This is a strong indicator of a large run of coho salmon; therefore, it is warranted to increase the bag and possession limits and allow anglers an opportunity to harvest additional coho salmon for the season.”

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    • Glad you recognized a good comment Monk. One that had an appropriate anology. I am sure that you agree with me that it is not relevant how many Coho are being caught by anglers in the Valley or anywhere else. Nor is it relevant that limits have been upped. In fact that is what is hoped for when the management plan specifically gives a preference to the sports fisheries after Aug 15. The point is that Cotten went outside the management plan and the clear intent of the BOF and made an allocative decision which was unprecedented. Now the door is open for future Commissioners to do the same thing. Hopefully the next BOF and Governor will tighten up EO authority through regulation or executive authority.

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  4. What specific part of the plan was violated? Saying the plan was violated does not make it so, no matter how many times it is said. Specifically what part was violated? Use the words of the plan to show the plan was violated, don’t cherry pick the words, use the entire wording of the plan. If you can’t do that then please give it a rest.

    I say this as a sportsfisherman with no interest in commercial fishing.

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    • Steve O

      5 AAC 21.353.Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan.
      (a) …. The Department shall manage the Central District commercial drift gillnet fishery as described in this section.

      (f) From August 16 until closed by emergency order, Drift Gillnet Areas 3 and 4 are open for fishing during regular periods.

      Pretty simple language. Areas 1 and 2 are closed to commercial drift gillnet fishing after August 15. Last time I checked the calendar August 23 came after August 15. But hey, maybe it has to with the new math or the Mayan calendar.

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      • Mavo,

        You’re right the sections you’ve cherry picked are pretty simple language, did you bother to read the rest of 5.21.323? You know the parts that explain the plan in it’s entirety, it’s really not that long of a section and very clearly states what occurred is withing regulations. I assume you have the ability link to the whole code since I provided it earlier, if you want I will copy and paste the entire language here so you can read what the code actually says and not what you want it to say by leaving parts of sections or entire sections out.

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  5. Too bad we don’t have any real numbers for the personal use fishery on the Kenai. Guesstimating catch based on the availability of parking seems like a terrible way to manage a fishery

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    • To repeat, better data is always better. But how much do you want to spend to count 200,000 fish downstream from the sonar? And when it comes to money, would you rather spend it on counting or enforcement?

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      • How much would it cost to require dippers to call in or report online their daily catch? Perhaps give them tags for the number of fish they are entitled to for their household and reguire tag numbers to be reported.
        Where did you get the 200k number? Are you guessing? We could eliminate the guesswotk and get actual numbers if adfg required timely and accurate reporting from the dipnet fleet.
        If enforcement costs are an issue maybe consider raising the fines. I believe the department of law generates revenue by policing the commercial fleet

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      • Omar: i have no idea of the cost. when i first asked about real-time, online reporting probably five years ago, i was told it would costs thousands to set up the software to do that. it would probably be cheaper now.

        there’s a Board of Fish meeting coming up next year. put in a proposal to require dipnetters to report daily, and maybe the Department of Fish and Game will respond with a cost estimate.

        but if we now have a huge problem, as you have suggested, with people not even bothering to get licenses, how would a reporting system fix that? if they can’t be bothered to pick up a free permit, or download from the Fish and Game website, why would they bother to report their catch.

        a call in would be more expensive than an online report because another computer program or a person would be needed to process the calls. tags would push costs even higher.

        for what?

        on some level, it doesn’t matter how many sockeye dipnetters catch. they’re downstream from the sonar. any dipnet harvest is an allocation issue, not a conservation issue. dipnetters don’t have the harvest power to cause a conservation problem.

        in the best year (2011), the dipnet fishery caught 538,000 fish. the reason the harvest was so high was because the river was pretty much plugged with fish from July 17 when an unbelievable 231,000 stormed past the counter, until July 28.

        over the course of those 12 days, there was only one day with fewer than 40,000 fish past the sonar, and 10 days with more than 70,000 sockeye past the counter. the dipnet fishery couldn’t begin to slow down that return.

        last year, there was one day with more than 70,000 at the sonar, and one day with more than 60,000 and the harvest reflected that difference. it fell to 297,000.

        this is because the fishery is density dependent. it needs large numbers of fish in-river to be successful.

        how many days over 70,000 at the sonar were there this dipnet season?

        my WAG as to that 200,000 harvest is based on effort being down a third from last year. 2/3s of 300,000 = 200,000.

        but i wouldn’t be surprised if the catch was even less than 200,000 given 11 days with fewer than 20,000 fish past the sonar. it’s really not worth dipnetting when the fish are trickling into the river at that rate. and even at 30,000, a dipnetter is going to have to work to get fish or stand there for hours and hours and hours and hours.

        there were four days over 30,000 this year. in these kinds of circumstances, it’s not even worth worrying about the dipnet fishery. it’s going to harvest so few fish as to be irrelevant.

        200,000 fish is what? one really good day in the drift fishery.

        wasn’t it in 2012 that the drift fleet caught about 2.2 million or so in a nine-day stretch there in mid to late July? that’s a daily average of about 240,000, isn’t it? the drift fleet could barely slow the flow that year even though it fished continuously for those nine days.

        the escapement that year hit 1.6M. it was also the only other year the dipnet catch topped 500,000 sockeye. why? because the river was again jammed with salmon and the dipnet fishery is, repeat after me, DENSITY DEPENDENT.

        given the lack of fish in-river this year, worrying about the dipnet fishery is just a distraction.

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  6. When an appointed bureaucrat ignores established policy and procedure that is a big deal. Especially when that action is intended to benefit one user group over another. Too bad BOF head is appointed rather than elected. An elected BOF head would represent all user groups, not just the one that showers Juneau with cash.

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  7. Craig,
    29 drift fishers harvested 200 reds & 800 cohos, on Aug 23rd, and the sports fishery suffered?
    Give me a break or knock me out! Please, do not make a mole hole into a mountain. It is unbecoming of you.

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    • 800 coho in the commercial catch is equivalent to 400 bag limits for anglers.

      Right, much ado about nothing. Except for the anglers who have a priority for silvers.

      Also lost in translation is that the BOF refuses to raise the daily bag limit for silvers in August back to three fish, the historical limit. The reason cited by the BOF and ADFG is that it doesn’t want to compromise the ability of commercial fisheries in August to fish.

      If anglers caught three silvers a day in August, then the sky would fall.

      And there wouldn’t be enough fish for escapement.

      Yes let’s not make a molehill out of a mountain.

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      • 2 is the default Coho limit on every freshwater drainage on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai River is the only river that has a 3 Coho limit but it’s 2 fish until Sep 1. The driving factor behind this is effort. Effort and harvest are really high on the Kenai in August, but drop like a rock in Sept. If anglers caught 3 Coho a day in August, they’d put the hurt on Kenai Coho. The current limits make sense.

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    • James: Did I say someone suffered? The issue here isn’t the outcome; it’s the precedent.

      Cotten went outside of the plan to give drifters an opening. With that precedent set, what’s to keep the next Commissioner from going outside of the plan?

      What if we get a Commissioner who looks at another forecast for a weak run of Chinook to the Copper and instead of ordering a sport fishery closure decides, “you know what, I’m just going to keep the drift fishery closed for the month of May to make sure we get kings upriver?”

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      • This is similar to exercising the nuclear option that the Dems did under Obama. It came back to haunt them when the last Justice on SCOTUS was appointed and will do so again with the most recent appointment by the President. The next Commissioner Might exercise the “nuclear option” in a far different way. And all with the new Governor’s backing. The Walker / Cotten blatant favoritism of the UCI commercial fishing sector might prove very costly in the next few years for those who benefitted from the very bad decisions of the Dept and unfair allocation decisions by the Jensen Board of Fisheries. What goes around, comes around. And those very bad decisions will prove most costly to Walker and Cotten who are just a few short months away from being handed their hat and shown the door.

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      • Craig, there is nothing in the management plan that closes area 1. It simply says area 3 and 4 are open for regular fishing periods. Any area can be opened by emergency order until the close of the season. Just as areas 3 and 4 would need an emergency order to close prior to the end of season.

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