Tangled in conflict


Fritz Johnson, far right, with the Board of Fisheries at work this summer/Craig Medred photo

Alaska Board of Fisheries member Fritz Johnson, a commercial fisherman from Bristol Bay, has resigned his seat on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) removing one of several possible conflicts of interest haunting the Board for a month.

“You can tell (people) they don’t need to fret,” he said by telephone from Seattle where he was tending his daughter who has been recovering from a bone marrow transplant. He decided, he said, that with his daughter ill he doesn’t have time to serve on both panels.

Complaints about Board conflicts have been bubbling since the entity which oversees the management of state fisheries in mid-October refused to put a cap on Alaska’s version of fish farming pending a review of whether privately grown hatchery fish are harming wild fish.

Unlike Norway, the world leader in salmon production, Alaska prohibits raising salmon in net pens, but it allows private, nonprofit companies to take eggs from returning salmon, incubate them in about two dozen hatcheries, grow the fish until they are ready to go to sea, and then releases them into ocean.

The process is called “salmon ranching,” and it has made Alaska into the West Coast leader in hatchery fish,  according to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. The state produces about two and a half times more hatchery fish than the combined total of the states of California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington plus the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Alaska’s 1.6 billion salmon dump into the North Pacific Ocean in 2017 plus another 300 million young fish from Lower 48 state hatcheries pushed the U.S. to the role of world leader in ocean ranching.

The Alaska fish have created a $125 million per year business in Prince William Sound.

Protecting fish or fish sales?

ASMI is in the business of promoting the sale of those and other Alaska salmon, while the Fish Board is in tasked with protecting salmon runs from fishermen of all sorts to avoid overfishing. The Board is also regularly in the position of settling disputes between commercial fishermen using different gear-types to harvest salmon, and between commercial and non-commercial fishermen over who gets to catch what and how much.

Johnson said Friday that he didn’t see a problem in serving on both the ASMI board and the Fish Board, but some subsistence, personal-use dipnet and sport fishermen raised questions about conflicts after the Board rejected a request from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) and a coalition of other conservation groups to cap hatchery production in the Sound until more is known about straying salmon and interactions between young wild and hatchery fish mixing in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation (PWSAC) and the Valdez Fisheries Development Association  (VDFA) have used hatcheries to build the Sound salmon catch from a historic  3 million fish per year in the 1950s, 1960 and 1970s to 45 million per year in recent times.

A 2017 study of the Exxon Valdez oil spill stumbled on evidence high hatchery numbers of pink salmon depress sockeye salmon returns to the Copper River, and the KRSA started asking questions about whether those hatchery fish might also be involved in declines of Cook Inlet sockeye.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game scientists told the Board they don’t know if increasing numbers of hatchery fish are depressing returns of wild fish. Given that there was no firm evidence of harm, the Board approved a 10 million egg boost for the VFDA hatchery.

After the meeting, some KRSA members and Nancy Hillstrand, a Homer fish processor and salmon activist, complained that the decision turned on its head the “precautionary principle” historically followed by the Board and state fishery managers.

The precautionary principle says that if science is in doubt state officials should take the action that best protects wild salmon resources. The Board did the opposite and voted in favor of protecting the financial interests of the hatcheries and the commercial fishermen who support them.


That action raised questions about Board conflicts. As a member of ASMI, Johnson regularly attended ASMI board meetings with representatives of two salmon processors with major operations in the Sound.

Meanwhile, Board member Alan Cain, a retired Fish and Wildlife Trooper, had a personal services contract with Fish and Game, which had first OK’d the stocking increase, and board member John Jensen was newly appointed to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC), a federal fishery management group, while sitting on the Board, a state management agency which sometimes has a different agenda than the NPFMC.

Cain could not be reached for this story. Jensen did not return a phone call.

Critics questioned how Cain could possibly vote against a hatchery plan approved by Fish and Game when his second income depended on doing business with the agency. Jensen, as Board chairman last year, announced the Board was taking fish away from Cook Inlet personal-use dipnetters and anglers and giving them to commercial fishermen, and was on record telling a public radio station in his hometown of Petersburg this summer that one of his key NPFMC priorities was to “deal with sustainability of the commercial fishing industry.”

KRSA executive director Ricky Gease, among others, questioned how Jensen could fairly weigh the interests of sport, personal-use and subsistence fishermen when the priority of his focus was maintaining commercial fisheries.

By laws both state and federal, subsistence fisheries are mandated a legal priority, but the state has sometimes ignored that. When a weak run of Chinook salmon was forecast for  the Copper River in 2017, the state put limits on subsistence fishermen in river to in order to provide greater fishing opportunity for commercial fishermen off the mouth of the river.

The Board has regularly come under fire for its commercial slant.

“It is contentious,” Johnson admitted.

It has only become more so as Alaska has grown from a territory of 225,000 residents with many commercial fishermen to today’s state of 740,000 with comparatively few commercial fishermen.

A warmer ocean and better salmon management has helped the state grow the salmon harvest from 41 million per year in the 1950s to more than 200 million per year over the last five years, but that hasn’t quieted disputes over who gets to catch them.

A small minority of commercial fishermen harvesting more than 98 percent of the state’s fish and wildlife resources with noncommercial interests getting the scraps inevitably causes resentment.

A “very small percentage of resources…are being harvested for subsistence and personal use,” Fish and Game’s Meredith Marchioni concluded after analyzing statewide harvests. “Commercial fishing takes 98.3 percent of all harvested resources in Alaska. Subsistence and personal use take 1.1 percent and sport harvest takes 0.6 percent.”

Tensions were only heightened by departing Gov. Bill Walker’s naming a former commercial fisherman to head Fish and Game, an agency historically run by biologists trained in the environmental sciences; appointing to the Fish Board the executive director of a Cook Inlet fishing lobby who claimed to be living in Alaska while also living in Montana; and embracing commercial fishermen in the Inlet – the site of the most contentious fishery in the state – to the chagrin of non-commercial fishermen.

Commercial fishermen are now a panic about the election of Republican Mike Dunleavy as the state’s new governor. Dunleavy is a resident of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which has for years been warring with Inlet commercial fishermen who intercept hundreds of thousands of salmon bound for tributaries to the Susitna and Matanuska rivers.

Dunleavy angered commercial fishermen when he failed to attend a fisheries debate in Kodiak. And with Walker having set a new standard for gubernatorial messing in salmon management, commercial interest have legitimate concerns to worry, although the battles over salmon in Alaska are largely localized to a few small areas, most notably Cook Inlet.

The Fish Board is a rather unique panel set up by the early Alaska Legislature to try to remove politics from salmon management. Board members are appointed by the governor, but must be approved the Legislature.

Over the years, the Board has had greater or lesser success at working out compromises between various salmon-interests groups, but compromises that satisfy everyone have been hard to come by.












54 replies »

  1. The conflict of interest discussion is interesting. I get it – and understand that it’s tough. For one, being a BOF member doesn’t pay that well – most would need other sources of income. On the other side, people will will always claim conflict. Any time we discuss fish, Craig claims I have a conflict of interest simply because I help out on the family setnet site for 1 month a year. I wonder if anyone has thought about conflicts of interest relative to this blog? Or our legislature/executives? As in just 2 years ago, the AK Senate President, while making $200K/yr salary from a major oil company, hired CRAIG MEDRED to “communicate” on issues related to the LNG gas line efforts. Craig’s “communication” did not exactly help the sitting governor, or the gas line efforts. What a confusing and tangled web of conflicted interests. Makes me wonder who is currently paying the bills at!

    • Once again, Todd, your reading problem gets in the way. You should see someone about that.

      The story you link says nothing about anyone being hired to “‘communicate” on issues related to the LNG gas line efforts.”

      It says quite specifically that I was asked to examine”the history of gas-line plans for Alaska.” I did. Your guy Gov. Bill Walker has a history there is interesting. I also offered the Senate Majority some advice on communications and public policy.

      Mainly, I told them they needed to be more open, engage Alaskans more, and talk a whole lot more about their own histories in Alaska and fears and hopes for the state’s future. They didn’t take a whole lot of that advice.

      And the governor as it turned out had some issues that might fog his thinking on the gasline. He believes Exxon long plotted to keep Alaska out of the natural gas business. Why Exxon would do that, he couldn’t really make clear, but he was (and I’d guess still is) convinced of the plot.

      Since Walker was then out of the gas pipeline business (remember his competing Alaska Gasline Pipeline Authority (, he had no conflict with the state gasline plan, but some or his personal issues remained. They were enough to make any reasonable Alaska wonder about his judgment on financial decisions regarding a gasline.

      The state has now sent millions trying to beat Exxon on at its game. We can only hope the money was well spent.

      As for it is supported by a large number of small contributors (with my deep thanks to everyone of them), the handful of Alaska ads that appear on the page, and a tiny amount of revenue sharing from those Google ads.

      What it should do, Todd, is collect a fee from trolls like you who go online to misquote news stories in an effort to smear. Then there would be a more revenue.

      And your policy of trying to smear the messenger because you don’t have anything valid to add to discussions of the message is getting old.

      • Craig,
        Maybe Trump’s sanctions will knock Exxon out of Russia, although it seems they have no shortages of places to drill these days…
        “In the Permian Basin of New Mexico, Exxon paid $6 billion last year to the billionaire Bass brothers of Fort Worth for 250,000 acres with some 7,000 potential drilling locations. In the Permian and Bakken, Exxon anticipates 20% compound annual growth in oil volumes to about 750,000 bpd by 2025.
        In Mozambique, Exxon is working with Eni and Petrochina on the $8 billion Coral floating LNG project, targeting 85 trillion cubic feet of natural gas…
        Then there’s the Hebron oil field off the east coast of Canada, the Barzan gas project in Qatar and the Upper Zakum field in UAE, which Exxon aims to boost from 650,000 bpd to 1 million bpd…”
        So why would they want to deal with the Colonial Debauchery in the North?
        I believe Walker when he said Exxon wanted nothing to do with building an 800 mile gasline in Alaska.
        But if you ask them if they would sell their gas for LNG shipments from the Arctic, I bet they would say yes.
        Problem is Walker and Parnell are not adjusting for a Beaufort Sea that will have very few “iced up” months in the years to come.
        Alaska needs a new gas plan for shipping LNG not just new cheerleaders for an old antique plan without any funding.

    • Todd: I heard that you are a thoughtful and pretty smart person. Perhaps you could address the conflict issues I raised in my comments on this piece. Do you think that former Chair Jensen has a conflict in serving on the Council and the BOF at the same time? Do you believe that just recusing himself would be enough. What does that do to the process? How often should he be able to do this before it’s too often? Am really interested in your take. Seriously. And what is your take on Al Cain’s potential conflicts. He works for the State in two instances. One for DNR part time and the other for the Dept. Also seasonally. Should he be able to cast a vote while in the BOF on proposals that are submitted by the Dept? Or vote on proposals that the Dept has taken a position. It doesn’t look good but perhaps it is not an issue. Please tell me your thoughts.

  2. Jack actually makes a good point. Some studies have shown that the economic impact from the in river fisheries in the Kenai Peninsula is significantly greater than from the commercial fisheries. Alaska’s constitution mandates that the resource be managed for the maximum benefit of the people. A good question is: exactly what does that mean?
    50 years ago there were very few anglers on the Kenai River, hardly any homes built on its banks, Soldotna was an intersection you drove through on the way to Kenai and there were approx the same number of commercial set net and drift
    fishers. Today Soldotna is a thriving city benefitting from the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of anglers and dip netters, multi million dollar homes are now on the river banks that produce healthy tax revenues to the local governments which translate into jobs and more goods and services, and yet there are not many more commercial fishers participating in the commercial fisheries. The value of a King Salmon caught by an angler is measured in the hundreds of dollars and maybe in the thousands. While at the same time it is measured by several dollars a pound when caught by the commercial sector. The present day value of a Sockeye caught by commercial fishers 50 years ago is many times the $2.00 or so a pound received today. That fishery appears to be going backward while the angler and dip net fisheries are looking promising going forward.

    • I think you are mistaken about the value of a sockeye 50 years ago being more valuable than today. I really can’t say about CI but speaking for Copper River, those reds were thrown on top of barges and fishermen were paid by the fish (not much). No refrigeration and the fish went into cans that took care of the bacteria issues.

      • You might be more correct about the “first”runs of Copper River Reds and Kings But that is a clever marketing stunt that does not reflect the price paid for almost all the rest of the state’s Sockeye and King fisheries. An example is when Drifters in B.B. were being paid anywhere between 80 cents and over $2.00 a pound for Sockeye in the mid 80s nearly 35 years ago. Call it a average of a dollar a pound and figure the present value of that amount using CPI increases or just inflation of the dollar. I paid $6,500 for a new Ford PU in ‘84. Same today would be around 40K. That’s approx six times as much. If Sockeye prices in the mid 80s were 1.00 the present value of that is at least 7 or 8 dollars after compounding. And that is using a conservative 1.00 per pound. Make it 1.25 and that drives the present day value closer to 10.00. Am trying to think of anything else that has gone down so far in terms of purchasing power. Can’t. That sounds to me like a declining industry.

      • I’m reminded here of the saying that “figures don’t lie but liars figure.”
        The numbers you are using are before both farmed fish showed up and also before the BB fishermen sued the Japanese over prices (both resulted in large drops to salmon prices).
        You might want to look at BB permit values that would take into consideration volume, in addition to price. But then, you have an agenda that takes precedence over being truthful.

      • Bill, no need to get personal. Bristol Bay permits are in the same category as Sockeye prices. They hovered between $70K and a bit over 200K in the 80s. They are around 140K today. Calculate their values back then in today’s dollars and it is another example of a declining industry. No matter what happened because of the strike or with farmed fish, the fact is that fishers get far less per pound in purchasing power today than 35 years ago. Whether I have an agenda or not does not change the facts Bill. Next time instead of implying I am a liar perhaps you might consider inescapable facts. Or debate on the merits instead of calling someone names. That’s beneath you.

      • Oh for Pete’s sake you were not called any names. All I did was call you out on your agenda. You must feel guilty.
        Permit prices and fish prices fluctuate a lot and you (and Craig) can push your story about a declining industry till the cows come home and it doesn’t make it so. Remember it was you that started with the 50 years ago numbers and when I pointed it out that you were full of shit you then pick the highest price years to compare to today. That is nothing but a bullshit agenda IMO. You don’t like that, tough noogies. Nothing personal, either.

      • Bill: permit prices reflect what people are willing to pay, nothing more and nothing less. some times they are in step with markets; sometimes they are out of step. we’ve had plenty of hobbyists buy into commercial fisheries here.

        if they can spend the summer fishing and break even, or make a small profit, they’re happy, and it inflates prices. it is what it is. it has little to do with market realities.

        the market realities are that farmed fish now dictate price, and farmed fish are only going to strengthen their position in the future. their competition with each other combined with technological improvements will hold prices down.

        Alaska fishermen will face prices that are basically capped with operating costs going up. they’re going to need to up volume to maintain profits. we’re basically headed back to where we were before limited entry.

        you can stuff your head down the fish hold and keep telling yourself someone is pushing something, but the reality is that for as long as human history has been recorded the people with the better technology come out on top. we’re on the wrong side of the tech curve.

        Alaskans has cavalry. the Norwegian farmers have tanks.

        end of story.

      • Craig, these are businessmen/women and a business is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, for sure. However, few are willing to pay for a hobby and a business that only pays what one can earn as unskilled wages is worth little. A business that does more than that suddenly has value if it fits into a business person’s lifestyle. For example, BB fishery works for a lot of school teachers as it’s short enough and timing works for them-and they are not in it as a hobby.
        Certainly folks buy in and see the fishery drop from what they paid but then those permits take a beating. Also, the expense of boats is a lot greater than say 35 years ago and sort of along the lines of real estate, price of homes and interest rates go hand in hand, so do price of permits and expense of boats.
        Anyway, permit prices are a part of business expense to get into fishery, but few are willing to pay for a business that has the potential to return little but they are willing to pay quite a bit for something like BB fishery that can return quite a lot. I suspect that CI permits are held by some school teachers as well even though it hasn’t penciled out so well lately. And I suspect the boats are not being upgraded as much as other fisheries.
        Sockeye prices used to be dictated by Japan (and its currency) so plenty has changed but that doesn’t mean what you suggest IMO. PWS fishery doesn’t fit well with school teachers but I knew some contractors who fished there during low construction years that was temporary until things turned around. That may well be the case in other fisheries but those were not hobbyists, either. It’s just plain business.

      • Bill: thank for the calm and reasoned response. if you don’t follow globefish, you might want to.

        the good news for Alaska is that markets for salmon are expanding. the bad news is that salmon is going the way of chicken, and we all know the price of chicken.

        as i said, and as your observations would appear to agree, we appear headed back to a pre-limited entry version of Alaska fisheries with a lot of people with seasonal jobs – school teachers and others – supplementing their income with commercial fishing.

        that will go on as long as they make a reasonable income, and then some will leave and others will do it just to do it and pocket a limited income. one of my neighbors is one of those. i and a few old dipnetting buddy almost joined him when we could have picked up a northern district UCI setnet permit for a few thousand dollars.

        there’s nothing wrong with this either. where the problem arises is when the state allows low-value economic interests to wag the dog. the state should be directing salmon harvests toward where they contribute most to the general economy. in most places, that remains commercial fisheries, and we might be locked into that for a long, long time even as the commercial market shifts.

        in a few other places, however, the fish are worth are far more in the tourism market, and we need to figure out how to sensibly and as painlessly as possible evolve the economy in that direction.

      • Craig, it was not my intent to imply that things were only now reverting to pre-limited entry days. This has been how it is for as long as I remember. And I don’t recall a big push for limited entry being because fishermen were then only seasonal fishermen. One large objection was that it was only in good years did extra folks come out of the woodwork to fish-they didn’t show during poor years. In other words, they really only needed limited entry for the good years. The bad years took care of themselves.
        I will say that Boldt decision in WA left a lot of Washington fishermen with a choice that resulted in large numbers of them coming into Alaska’s fisheries in the 80s.
        By the way, here are my numbers for entering PWS gillnet fishery in 1985-Package deal for $80 K was for permit ($50 k) and boat with new engine and outdrive and several nets ($30k). That fishery is now about $160 K for permits and boats are much more expensive, after a disaster Copper River return.
        There is a good reason that young people are not jumping into salmon fisheries and that’s not because the price for entry is collapsing. That said, there are still a few salmon fisheries that are suffering but those tend to be those with market issues.

    • Most of the quality economic studies (independent, real economists, etc.) state that while the economic impact of any one fishery is hard to quantify, BOTH have a very significant impact, and there is a lot of strength in the diversity we have in our fisheries on the Kenai. “Time for a change” – comparing the all-in value of a sport caught salmon to the dockside or wholesale value of commercially caught salmon with no other multipliers is ridiculous. That’s the type of stuff they do in industry sponsored studies like the one you were referring to…:)

      • Todd: I couldn’t agree more on the value of economic diversification. The state needs to maintain a viable commercial fishery in Cook Inlet. One would hope that fishery will be around for decades.

        That, unfortunately, isn’t going to happen unless some changes are made.

        Market conditions are driving the state back toward where it was before voters amended the state Constitution to allow limited entry. Permits are oversubscribed in Upper Cook Inlet already, and everyone knows it.

        The rest of your comment is largely just a reiteration of the false narrative you usually spew, and anyone who has been in the Fred Meyer in Soldotna in July or waited in line at the McDonald’s drive through there knows it.

        The sport fishery puts asses in the seats. It’s a hugely, hugely, hugely inefficient fishery. The more inefficient a fishery the higher the costs of production for every pound of fish flesh. It’s simple economics.

        The high cost of production in the sport fishery appears on the Kenai in the form of the hundreds of millions of dollars (dollars imported into the Peninsula not exported from it) anglers spend to catch fish there.

        For the state’s economic good, it should be managing to maximize the harvest the sport fishery, which has a fairly limited harvest capacity, and using the commercial fishery to catch everything else, the latter fishery owning a large harvest capacity.

        Sadly, this isn’t the way the fishery is managed.

      • Craig, your “Market conditions are driving the state back toward where it was before voters amended the state Constitution to allow limited entry” doesn’t say much about what those “market conditions” are.
        Prior to limited entry, there were essentially no dipnet fisheries on Kenai or Kasilof rivers and it is my contention that CI gillnet fishery would not be experiencing its problems were that fishery still not in existence. In other words that personal use fishery has brought on the issues those fishermen are experiencing today and probably why they keep trying to reduce the personal use limit. Probably also why they’ve sued to get the fishery regulated by the Feds, rather than State. Now, I don’t for a minute expect any outlawing of personal use fishing (also don’t favor it) but the removal of that many high dollar fish from any commercial harvest pretty clearly can cause problems for that fishery.
        So we agree that this particular fishery may indeed need some help but to also suggest that those fishermen need to allow for more escapement to sport fishermen hardly solves their problem IMO. And, of course just like Jack Smothers, I suspect that the sport guys will want the State to buy-back some of those permits. Heheh!
        I’ll look forward to the argument that the State will benefit in the long run and should be jumping at the chance to profit from it.

      • Why is it ridiculous to compare the economic impact between a sports caught King salmon and a gill netted King Salmon? Surely, Todd, you are fully aware that the area and indeed the whole state benefits far more when a King Salmon is caught in river rather than in a Gill net. Indeed, sometimes the only person who benefits from a King Salmon caught in a gill net is the Comm Fisher, when in some cases it is not reported. But I am confident that you will argue that would never happen.
        What’s happening to your fishery really is too bad Todd. But it is floundering. No pun meant! It has become more of a hobby for most. A hobby for families in some cases, yes but nevertheless a hobby. Your only hope may be a buy out. That is where the effort should be, instead of fighting a losing battle.

  3. 3 of 7 BoF members, all on the commfish side, with conflicts of interest. Time for a little housecleaning. And fisheries were part of the Dunleavy campaign. Cheers –

  4. Dear Mr Medred, The DFG graphic displayed in the article “Tangled in Conflict” was very interesting. Can you tell me more about the source? Year created, who created it, where you found it? How the statistics were gathered etc? Thank you.

    • Elizabeth: you should be able to click on the link there and go to the report prepared by the Division of Subsistence, Alaska Department of Fish and Game. strangely enough, the report is noted dated, but my recollection is that it was done in 2013.

      the Subsistence Division used to do annual harvest reports, but i don’t see the new ones online anywhere. the Division has a long history of data collection. that graphic includes all wild fish and game harvests, so the percentages for subsistence, personal use and sport are boosted a little by the wildlife take.

      there is no commercial wildlife harvest in Alaska. that said, the wildlife harvest compared to the fish harvest is so small that it little changes the overall picture. fish harvests swamp everything here in Alaska.

      and i might also note the current situation is probably skewed somewhat in a historical sense by our massive modern salmon harvests. the commercial harvest from 1900 through 1979 averaged about 62M fish per year. the current five-year average is over 200M per year.

      so even if subsistence, personal-use and sport interests were continuing to harvest the same volume of fish and wildlife as in say 1980, they’re percentage of the total harvest would fall.

      • Craig,
        You wrote:
        “there is no commercial wildlife harvest in Alaska”
        Why do you think the state withholds these numbers from us?
        I tried to see how many moose a guide out on the Yentna was taking with clients each year and it is not obtainable….
        This data should be public knowledge.
        Guides only report to guide board and clients from outside just check a box for commercial services used…
        No real accountability to community when a large outfitter could have nearly a dozen clients or more working with assistant guides throughout season.
        Definately an impact on limited resource.

      • Steve, do you think guided hunt takes are reported any different than guided fish takes? The numbers are reported by the taker (whether guided or not).
        My own opinion is that these guides (both hunting and fishing) are a form of commercial use and it may be possible to get a handle on the numbers collectively but I can see where Dept. may not give out information on an individual guide. I believe you would have problems trying to get information on individual trapper/hunter takes too.

      • Bill,
        Problem is the state is not keeping track of successful guides in one area…
        The biologist that I spoke with said the state does not oversee the guides.
        F&G may know the total moose harvested in one area, but the state never knows how many animals a specific guide business assists with harvesting.
        This is different from sport fishing guides who keep daily logs and definitely different from comm fish who also report harvests.
        Even if F & G office would not release the personal information, they should be able to tell me how many moose are commercially harvested by guides in my GMU.
        This is important since I see an imbalance on the Yentna since guides can still use aircraft to spot animals during the season.
        I think inseason spotting was stopped for brown bear, but not for moose.
        One guide that I talk to said it may be time to end that practice, but we have little evidence to use.
        Your point on checking “commercial services” on harvest tickets leaves a lot of room for “air taxis”, outfitters, freight haulers, and then licensed guides.
        So, those folks may or may not use a local guide.

  5. The story started off talking about conflict of interest in the State Board of Fisheries, and now were talking about gaslines.
    When talking about board members such as Fritz Johnson in my opinion and it shows by his stepping down to maintain the INTEGRITY of board process vs. John Jensen types who in one board cycle proclaimed specific information “too new to use” and the next cycle (3 years later), stating “this information is too dated to use”, you have to be brain dead not to see where certain board members “loyalties” lie.
    When I heard Jensen was appointed to this new post I thought he has to step down from the State board now. Nope.
    Governor Walker asked former chair Karl Johnstone to step down due to lack of board process, because how can there be fair and equitable board process if members have their own agendas?

    It was not long after Johnstone TABLED proposals to create those State waters trawl fisheries designed to benefit a certain group of individuals, TABLED on more than one occasion even though the majority was opposed to the creation of those fisheries.

    If you want to educate yourself on matters, look up HB 87 and how it wouldve allowed conflicted board members to remain in deliberations.

    • My recollections are that Walker told Johnstone that he would not be reappointing him when his term was up and was, in fact, going to replace him with Roland Maws. Johnstone then told Walker that he would resign then so’s Walker could get Maws on board sooner.
      Of course, that was all before Maws baggage became known and he (Maws) then resigned his position.

  6. Here are some thoughts on Jensen’s potential conflicts. Because of the 9th circuit Court of Appeals decision, management of Cook Inlet Salmon stocks in federal waters must now be under Federal Council regulations. In the past the Council allowed the State to use its regulations to manage the stocks. The state manages these stocks based on escapement goals. The Council manages for MSY. The Council is typically not very concerned about recreational uses and would likely have a problem making sure there were salmon available to dip net fishers unless non residents could also participate. Whereas State regulations permit only residents to participate in the PU fishery. Also how can Jensen reconcile the requirements of Alaska’s constitutional mandates that require that the resource be managed for the maximum benefit of Alaskans with his obligation to the Council to manage based on MSY which generally favors commercial interest over other users.
    The areas in Cook Inlet federal waters are highways for salmon stocks heading for the Nothern district ( Anchorage and the Mat Valley). What does Jensen do to protect the in river recreational users opportunity in those areas when his Council obligation is to provide maximum benefit for commercial users. In the past, Council regulatory meetings take place at the same time as BOF meetings and sometimes in different cities. Can’t be in two places at the same time. The BOF has and will likely continue to develop state waters fisheries for Pacific Cod which takes fish away from Council jurisdiction and reduces federal commercial quota. The Council has on occasion resisted those efforts. There will likely be a push to develop state waters trawl fisheries for Pollock. And federal fishers and the Council will probably oppose any state plan that takes fish from the Council regulated federal fishery. How can Jensen serve the State of Alaska Goals and the Council’s at the same time. They sometimes are in conflict and it is clear that, concerning trawl fisheries, the Council is geared to provide maximum opportunity to Fishing interests that are mostly located outside of Alaska. The State’s interest is to serve its people.
    Jensen needs make a choice and resign from
    The BOF or the Council.

    • That’s all true, but the biggest immediate problem he faces there is the Board of Fish making commercial harvest the priority for Cook Inlet sockeye management from July 1 to Aug. 15.

      Being part of one governing body that has adopted that policy, how do you adhere to the policies of another governing body which has some strict standards for protection of weaker stocks in mixed stock fisheries?

      Does he just recuse himself from the upcoming Inlet discussions because of this inherent conflict, or does he ignore, pick one, federal law or state policy as established by the BOF?

      North Pacific Fishery Management Council involvement in the Inlet is a tangle. Has everyone overlooked the restrictions the council placed on the Southeast Alaska troll fleet to protect the small number of Columbia River Chinook harvested in the troll fishery?

      What restrictions will the Council be forced to place on commercial drifters in the Inlet to protect stocks of concern in the Susitna drainage? Or will Jensen try to convince the Council to largely ignore that issue as the BOF has done and expose itself to yet more litigation?

      • Recusing oneself from discussing and voting on proposed BOF regulations is not a good solution. The BOF needs seven members to do business. 3 to 3 votes are never the preferred process. If Jensen can keep both jobs by simply recusing or being recused by the Chairman, the Board will be unable to properly conduct the regulatory process. By not participating and not casting a vote it is the same as casting a “no” vote. Upper Cook Inlet is just the current in-vogue issue. The same thing will occur in the Alaska Peninsula and PWS, where management of salmon stocks in federal waters are under State regulations. These areas will have to be managed using federal regulations, which will have Jensen choosing between federal national standards or Alaska’s constitution and Statutes. And it impacts the Council’s process as well. If he recuses or is recused during Council votes there will be one less vote there as well. It’s not as critical because the Council has far more members that the BOF. But is not the preferred way to conduct their business.
        It seems like a no brainer. These irreconcilable conflicts will adversely and significantly impact the BOF process. It’s time for a new Attorney General to provide a legal opinion requiring Jensen to choose the agency in which he wants to remain. He should not be allowed to serve on both.

  7. We called them “pogies”.and were everywhere then in 1950s Puget Sound……They would feed around the barnacles of piers and docks that were not creosoted…..My Dad gave me a little fishing pole when I was 5 and after he got off work in the shipyard we would go to the docks at Brownsville or by the Ferry docks in Bremerton……..My job was to catch the pogies and he would use them for bait to land “Rock Cod,Salmon, and sometimes a Ling cod……this all was for dinner and we always
    caught something……Puget Sound was a giant fish bowl……
    It was different back then……rather than go to a movie ,we would go in my TR3 to Hood Canal
    with a few lemons and pick some oysters off the beach and have a small driftwood fire and laugh
    and talk ….and enjoy the Puget Sound…Olympia Beer/sometimes Rainier and a lot of laughs…
    back across the Hood Canal floating bridge and a wonderful night for a date…Life was so simple back then……and food and fish were so abundant…..
    Then in the 70’s and 80’s the Native politics got nasty and the Salmon population died off….That’s when I left Puget Sound…..I couldn’t catch a fish ,as there were not many left….
    And the politicians told us not to fish….
    I hope I don’t see this happen in Alaska…..

    • Bob,
      Sadly this has already happened in south central Alaska.
      This year all local streams were closed for king season…and by the time silver season rolled around all that was found up stream were mostly humpys….
      Sure some dippnetters flocked to Kenai to scoop up a few reds, but overall the health of the ecosystem has been decimated….even the Copper River was shut down for personal use (first time I remember in 15 years).
      I am afraid the corporate voice of the super PAC has outspoken the voices of landowners in AK.
      Hatchery fish and further aquaculture augmentation is the wave of the present and future in AK.
      The GOP sees these bodies of water more valuable for oil & gas and mining then for supporting native salmon runs….

      • Steve Stine – which bodies of water hurt by oil, gas, and or mining are you referring? Albeit I agree about the state of fishing in South Central waterways and miss the days when We caught Kings on the Deshka every summer to stock the freezer, but there’s no mining or invasive development that I’m aware of on the Deshka.

      • Elizabeth,
        I am primary speaking of the Cook Inlet (although many fisheries in AK are effected by exploration, drilling, mining, fracking and the gas industry in general)….
        Right now exploration crews are staying in Skwentna and drilling more test wells in salmon habitat drainages…with little to no environmental oversight.
        “Hilcorp drilled nine new oil wells overall in 2017 and expects to increase its overall Cook Inlet crude oil production from about 12,000 barrels per day last January to 15,500 barrels per day by the end of the year, he said. All or Hilcorp’s crude oil, which is “sweet” and high quality, goes to the Tesoro Alaska refinery near Kenai, on the east side of Cook Inlet.”
        Many of these wells are “fracked” with hazardous chemicals to free up gas deposits.
        Also there is still the potential of the Beluga Coal project…
         “The Chuitna Coal Project, located in the Beluga Coal Field of Southcentral Alaska, consists of three major components, the Chuitna Coal Mine, a coal transport system and export terminal, and a supporting infrastructure component. The cornerstone of the development is 20,000 acres of State of Alaska leases with measured reserves of ultra low-sulfur coal in excess of one billion tons. The Chuitna Coal Project is currently in the permitting process…PacRim Coal anticipates the project will employ approximately 300 – 350 people during production.”
        Even though some projects do not make it to full production, the exploration phases can still impact the health of natural salmon ecosystems.
        Unfortunately not enough voters were willing to put salmon in front of future development in AK.
        Many studies point to oil and gas development as the top concerns to natural salmon runs….

  8. We will see what Mike can do? How much more can he cut in Juneau?
    Will he, push a tax on commercial fishers, that already, help spread economic dollars, throughout local communities, municipalities and cities?
    The fact is: hatcheries are the economic engine, which help support numerous rural communities in SE & SC. Roe, flesh and fish oil employ many Alaskans, and majority of dollars, stay local.
    In Area E, close to 73% of commercial permits, are residents, not just a PO Box!
    What % of population in Mat Su, was actually born in AK!
    We are a nation of migrants! I was born in Tacoma, raised in Seattle and fished, lived & voted from Cordova.
    We are all from somewhere else. My ancestors are Norwegian and English.
    Only the indigenous people from AK, are entitled, to say they are from the Northern Territory. Their ancestors were here, before the Russians came over. “Seward’s Folly”, was the best investment, our country made, in the 1800’s.
    Now, new revenue sources are neeeded. LNG, transported by an Artic route, could be the answer. Burn Baby Burn!
    Remember to spend less, than what is brought in.

    • James,
      I fully agree with your comment: “LNG, transported by an Artic route, could be the answer”.
      No more wasted gasline discussions…
      Icebreakers, deep water port….start shipping!

    • Hi James. I agree with a lot of what you just said, however, what do you think about this idea for a ‘new’ revenue source: reduce the commercial harvest by 50% (this is a random number, of course) and let the fish go back home to the rivers where recreational fisherpeople can pay charter boats, guides, local services, car rental businesses, outdoor supply stores and the State of Alaska for the privilege of having awesome days of fishing? I think that the state could charge much more than they currently do for fishing licenses to non-residents IF there are fish to catch on a consistent basis. I know that studies have been done that show the $ per fish caught are much greater when a sport or personal use fisherperson catches it vs. a commercial fisherman. Maximum benefit to the residents of the state and all….

      Cheers sir!

      • As I read your statement Jack, you feel that by creating a sport fishery for non-residents and getting more in licensing fees that this gives “Maximum benefit to the residents of the state and all…” I presume that this is due to all the support services folks (may/may not be residents) who will supply these non-residents.
        Now I believe this is already being done around Bristol Bay but you are thinking we need to curb commercial fishing to do it in say Cook Inlet? Pretty clear that a reduction, by say 50% of commercial catch, would require some incredible changes to salmon processes there. Permit prices collapse, etc., would be a bit problematic IMO.
        Were we to have an income tax on these increased services, there just might be enough of this new revenue source but just an increase in non-resident fishing licenses wouldn’t cut much IMO. How much increased revenue are you talking??

      • Bill,
        Letting a few salmon make it upstream may not only bring back the guiding industry, it may also help to “keep the lights on” at a few homesteads in AK, cause what I see now are realtor signs in front of houses and remote cabins…disgusted owners who cannot even teach their kids to land a salmon on local shores in front of their property.
        Loss of culture leads to migration…
        Oil and gas may feed government spending, but native salmon runs have fed local Alaskans for decades.
        This state still needs good people for our society to function properly.
        I am concerned that far too many of the “good” have already left during the state’s “Austerity Period”.

      • Steve, you are talking something else entirely. You argue for one group over another, which is nothing but B of Fish allocation stuff. You and I just disagree about which group deserves what. I am not beholden to any guiding industry in Mat-Su valley (here today and gone tomorrow by a group that is notoriously non-resident, too boot). And I noticed how the valley voted on Stand for Salmon.
        Smothers is suggesting some kind of revenue increase from some kind of overhaul to our entire fishing industry. I am just questioning where he is getting his pie-in-the-sky numbers.

      • Majority of commercial guides, operating in CI, are non-residents.
        Area E (PWS & Cooper River), over 70% of commercial fishing permits, are held by AK residents. Highest in all salmon registration areas in AK.
        What % of oil workers, miners and loggers are state residents?
        My suggestion for a new revenue source is two fold. Enact a state income tax and do away with the PFD.

      • James, here is current information on mining employment in SE Alaska as given to Juneau Chamber of Commerce in the last two weeks. 47% of SE AK mining employees live out of State.
        I suspect something similar for the rest of Alaska, as well as, North Slope employees.

      • Bill,
        Read my comment again…
        This is NOT about salmon guides or the sport fishing industry.
        I have around 7 friends who left SC mostly do to terrible salmon returns upstream and our ongoing “recession”.
        Fishing for salmon was the bright spot every year for many of them….when it stopped, they left.
        All residents of Alaska deserve their right to catch natural salmon returning to the Cook Inlet and northern tributaries.
        As for the hatchery pinks, I do not care….let a few large seiners bring hatchery stock to market…that is all it would probably take.
        As for “keeping the lights on” in AK….
        Salmon brings joy and culture to many families (not just commercial fishing people).
        My 5 year old son nearly broke my heart this year when he said “I just want to go to the river and catch a big salmon”….
        Well, closures would not allow that and I am tired of driving 6 hrs to stand in line with a thousand people to net fish.
        With the loss of natural salmon runs in S.C. we are also losing teachers, guides, government employees and potential workers for many fields as well as a general “cloud of malaise” which hangs over any further recreation with rod and reel.

      • What you are talking about Steve, is happening all over SE Alaska as well. And it’s probably going to bankrupt some Alaska Power Trollers due to the king salmon closures foisted on them by B of Fish. These are tough times for all king salmon fishers but the resource needs the relief IMO. Like I said before, we all got to see how the valley voted on Stand for Salmon so it isn’t up there for most like you and your friends.
        My concern was with Jack Smothers’ plan for a clear re-allocation of sport fish from one fishery to another as yet undetermined sport fishery designed to create revenue to Alaska. I thought it a total scam and still do.

      • Bill,
        You and I can agree the resource needs “relief” although we differ on how to obtain that.
        I just want to add, when U talked about the guiding industry up here and said : Mat-Su valley (here today and gone tomorrow by a group that is notoriously non-resident, too boot). 
        I must tell you that my observations living and working in that community would show different facts.
        Sure, some lodge and operators spent winter outside, but they still pay property taxes in the mat su on their cabins and lodge.
        Boats are paid to be winterized and stored and freight haulers are paid to deliver supplies in winter…
        Locals get jobs shoveling off roofs and cutting firewood for next season.
        The business contributes to the “local economy” throughout the year…something that the commercial fleet does not do.
        If relief must come to halt over fishing, then we all should take a summer off.
        Yeh, the comm crew that is in debt too deep will be culled as well, but perpetual closures and projected returns will not help either of our concerns and will only drive future investments away from the sport fishing industry.

      • Steve, you no doubt know more about the guide industry in your neck of the woods than I but my comments go more towards the actual fish guides rather than the industry. In SE Alaska the industry is grounded in AK but the guides mostly come from outside the State and I suspect the same is true in your area.
        Anyway, there are issues with the industry as well and they are being addressed in the ability for these guiding folks to go around the halibut quotas for guided fishermen. The industry is now providing boats to these fishermen so’s they can take fish as if they aren’t guided-nobody knows yet how the halibut commission will fix the issue but it needs fixing IMO.
        You and I will probably never agree on how to fix any of these issues but I’m very aware of what’s going on in SE and saltwater particularly. My issue is with charter folks and they need to be limited, plain and simple. And that is the guide industry that tends towards non-resident fishermen that I have little sympathy for. The guide industry is not something that has been around that long and due to it’s not being limited in any form (from the beginning) has meant that there are problems when the resource is struggling (as it pretty clearly is now). By the way, I know the industry is supported by services like you mention but there still is that issue of non-resident guides not paying a thing-similar to those non-resident miners and slope workers that take their paychecks outside.
        It’s tough noogies for most everyone right now but I believe the system will eventually get a handle on it (as complex as it is) and in the meantime everyone suffers. Just my opinion.

      • Hi Bill,
        Yes sir. Those are just pie in the sky #’s. I just feel that if you say…. doubled the amount of fish that escape into the streams, you could say… double the amount that is charged to out of state fishers and probably increase the amount charged to locals for truly world class fishing opportunities. Now I’m not an economist, just a small business owner, but I would make a pie in the sky guess that 1) the state would make more money than they do over the taxes that the commercial fishing industry makes, 2) we would have more people trying to fish for them which would increase the amount of $’s that find there way into all of the road based local economies more than com fishing does and 3) would increase the amount of tourism $’s in our state even further (which we also earn local and state taxes from.
        Like I said, I’m no economist, but I would be willing to bet a dime to a dollar that this scenario would provide more benefit to the people of Alaska than our Cook Inlet fishy’s currently do…. Perhaps an actual economist should look into this a bit more. I’m sure that the states commercial industry would have no problem using science to find out how to obtain the maximum yield and maximum revenue for the state – right?
        Now please, use your ample time off to tear into the all of the ‘details’ of my intricate idea and tell me what a fool I am. I’ve got to finish up a remodel job this weekend for a local guide… I wonder how many fish it took for his clients to pay for the job that I’m working on right now?…
        As Paul Harvey would say: “Good day!”

      • Thanks for the reply Jack.
        The only thing I’ll say about your opinion is that, I suspect, your idea would not “provide more benefit for the people of Alaska….” It very well may provide a few specific local businesses with more but that would be at the expense of those businesses that support the fishing industry now.
        Certainly nothing wrong with studying it with economic numbers but I don’t believe it would come out as you think.
        One other angle is, of course, how does one go about (say) getting 50% more king salmon and not ending up with a stream full of pinks/chums that few want?

      • Hey Bill,
        I got to thinking about how many businesses I supported this year with my personal fishing adventures… Let’s see if I can recall a few: 3 local fly fishing stores in the Mat-Su, Anchorage and Cooper Landing areas, 7 – 10 local tackle stores from Fairbanks to Homer, larger stores (Sportsmans, Bass Proshop & Cabella’s, 7 campgrounds, 2 B&B’s, 1 fishing charter out of Homer, 1 water taxi out of the Mat-Su, god only knows how many gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores while traveling on fishing adventures.
        This is just off the top of my head and I only went out on a few trips this year (granted, when I go on a trip, I usually try to go for 3+ days because it’s hard to break away from work) – I didn’t even go dipnetting this year due to the past few years suckiness. When I go dipnetting, I support either a B&B on the Kenai or a local campground plus all of the normal travel stops along the way AND canning supplies, etc…
        This is just a middle class dude who likes to fish and makes a little effort to get out. I would make a much larger effort to get out to fish if there were more fish to be had. I was talking with my friends and the boat crew on our King / Halibut charter out of Homer this fall and we added up the amount of $’s that we spent to go on the trip – 5 people, 1 day on the water, 3 days in Homer having fun and travel back to the Lower 48 (1 person) and to the Mat-Su for the rest of us – came close to $5000. We had a blast and will do it again next year. Imagine if there were more fish in the water – how much would folks pump into the local economies to have truly epic fishing adventures? I bet more than the commercial guys pump into their local economies with maintenance and support, etc. In fact, maybe the commercial guys should jump ship and start charter businesses! I personally think that the state should offer a buyout of the Cook Inlet permits to reduce their numbers. I don’t see how any of the small time guys are making enough $ to justify the pain to everyone else…
        This might be a pie in the sky idea, but I think that it beats the snot out of the current system in which we are ALL losing – sporties, commies, personal…ies, and the State of Alaska.
        Good talking with you – I value your take on Craig’s articles – particularly the fish wars.

      • Hey there again Bill,
        Good question regarding the Pinks / chums. I would think that these ‘low class’ fish would need to stop being ranched as much (pinks) and the rest would either be targeted by the commercial fleet or come to a natural equilibrium over time. I would definitely defer to the experts on this area though – I just catch ’em when I can! I’ve heard that the kings are down everywhere and it might be best to shut down the early seasons until they are replenished – no idea though – once again, I defer to the experts to get more kings in the water. It’s a good thing that trout and dollies eat pink and chum roe so I can target them all summer long!

      • Well Jack, my advice is for you and your buds to chip in and buy out those CI permits and retire them. With all the money you guys play with it would be no time at all and everyone would be just swimming in fish. And no need to buy a boat either. Heheh!
        Of course you would like the State to do the buying but that’s usually how folks dealing with a public resource roll IMO.
        I wouldn’t count on those dollies being around forever, either. They have disappeared around Juneau and the pinks and chums are still thick. I’ll relate a little story from 1967 in Haines, AK. I had just arrived in Army there to work on military pipeline and another GI drove me up to Chilkoot Lake mouth. There were several spin fishermen there catching 15-16 inch dollies and throwing them up into the brush as they wanted cutthroat. I collected several for dinner and it has resulted in my opinions about certain sporties. The really insane thing is that dollies are better eating than cutthroat. And I’m a sporty, by the way.

      • Good morning, Bill.
        Wasting food pisses me off – I’m a catch and release person for everything except ocean fish. I love stalking and catching large trout, dollies and steelhead… and letting them go. I know that there is some mortality with doing this, but most of the ones that I let go live to be caught again. I personally think that unless you’re fishing in a stocked lake, you should be letting the fish go. Those dollies can to grow to be a respectable age!

        LOL about the com permits – I already know that it’s cheaper to hire someone to take me fishing than it is to own a hole in the water that you keep shoveling money into. Talk with you later!

      • Good morning to you, Jack.
        I believe the Natives refer to “catch and release” fishing as playing with food. Heheh!
        I’ve still got one of those “holes in the water” and my opinion is it cannot be replaced by any “charter.” But I suspect the fish market may be the cheapest yet (but that’s due to all boating expense geared to fishing). One can target those blacktails on the islands (SE and PWS) with a boat, too.
        Your fish war is different than ours in SE but the charter guys (guides) seem to figure into both yours and ours. And tourists also play a part.

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