Vital overreach

Red marks the death zone, the closure of which a state lawmaker says would kill the Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishery/NPFMC graphic

After years of Alaska politicians complaining about “federal overreach” in the 49th state, one legislator is now arguing that it is vital in Cook Inlet, the waterway that cuts into the heart of the state’s urban core.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Kenai, contends the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is incapable of managing salmon fisheries solely in the state waters of the Inlet and wants the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC) to open a federal fishery in the waters south and west of Kalgin Island.

Unless that happens to continue to allow commercial salmon gillnetters to operate largely out-of-sight far out in the Inlet in late June and early July, he argues in a letter to the Council, “more openings would be required later in the season in order for ADF&G to manage large quantities of returning fish…Inevitably this will result in over-escapement and eventually smaller returns, directly and negatively impacting the quality and quantities of salmon available for other sport, personal-use of and subsistence user groups.”

“Over-escapement” is the specter that haunts the Inlet’s commercial fishermen. In their nightmares, if one salmon in excess of the number state fisheries biologists consider optimal for spawning escapes commercial nets, the fish will crowd each other off the spawning beds, starve to death in the mad competition for food as fry or smolts, or otherwise interact to reduce to a trickle the number of adult salmon returning in future years.

Fisheries scientists agree on the theory of over-escapement, but caution that it’s not nearly as simple as commercial fishermen would like to believe.

Two top salmon scientists earlier this year went so far as to label the term as it is often bandied about in Alaska “a myth.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic just beginning in April, there were fears the Bristol Bay salmon fishery – the world’s largest producer of wild sockeyes – might be shut down, allowing tens of millions of the fish to escape into the rivers that feed the Bay.

The possibility drove the mother of all fears of over-escapement. And that panic drove University of Washington ecologist Daniel Schindler, who has studied salmon in the Bay for decades, and colleague Curry Cunningham to pen a commentary for National Fisherman magazine warning “these discussions have generated widespread concern about ‘over-escapement’…severely depressing future salmon production.

“The myth of over-escapement is an unnecessary distraction and should be dropped from these discussions. The fish will be just fine no matter what the outcome is for the 2020 season.”

A state study of the issue in 2007 found over-escapement common in many Alaska streams and reported that in three of 40 streams studied biologists did find declines in future returns after “consecutive over-escapements that were greater than twice the upper bound of the escapement goal range.”

Escapement is a technical term for the number of fish that reach their spawning grounds by escaping the nets of fishermen. Escapements twice the size of the upper ends of the range are extremely rare in the streams and rivers draining into Cook Inlet, although the Kenai River did come close in 1987 and again in 1989, the year of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

When small quantities of oil made their way into the Inlet, fishing was restricted and as a result almost 2.3 million sockeye made it into the Kenai that year, about 500,000 more than in 1987.

The river’s upper goal is 1.3 million. It has been regularly exceeded since 1989, but it has only gone over 2 million once and then by only 65,000 fish in 2006.

Battleground Kenai

The Kenai River is now at the heart of a dispute between the state and the federal government over the management of salmon in the Inlet, where the state managed the fish for decades.

That changed when the United Cook Inlet Drifters Association (UCIDA), a commercial fishing group that is the region’s most powerful commercial fishing lobby, sued the U.S. Department of Commerce arguing the National Marines Fisheries Service, a Commerce agency, was ignoring the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act.

The act regulates fishing in what is called the U.S. “Exclusive Economic Zone” from three to 200 miles off the coast, and it stipulates that all fisheries conducted in the EEZ must be prosecuted per the terms of a Council-approved management plan.

There was no such plan in place for the Inlet. A federal judge ruled that there should be and told the Council to write one. UCIDA, in turn, has tried to leverage that plan into more than just a fishery to allow drift gillnets to catch a few salmon in the center of the Inlet.

UCIDA’s attorney in May told a federal judge that federal management should exstend to not just the federal waters in the Inlet the streams and rivers that drain into the Inlet to force the state to start managing for “maximum sustained yield (MSY).”

MSY is to the sweet dreams of commercial fishermen what over-escapement is to their nightmares.

If only the state would manage for MSY, a Kenai gillnetter suggested to the state Board of Fisheries in January, “there’s no reason not for 100,000 kings to come back to the Kenai River” every year along with 4 million to 6 million sockeye.

Kings, or Chinook as much of the rest of the world calls them, are the largest of the Pacific salmon, and the fish most prized by anglers. The Kenai kings used to support a guide industry worth about $100 million per year. It is now largely gone.

The Kenai hasn’t seen a return of anything close to 100,000 kings in a decade, and the problem appears to have nothing do with over-escapement or lack of management for MSY.

A peer-reviewed study published in Fish and Fisheries in September pointed to what appears to be a largely Pacific-wide decline that has more than halved the number of Chinook in the sea.

“The abundance of salmon in the North Pacific has reached record levels,” researcher David Welch and his colleagues wrote. “However, most of the increase is in the two lowest valued species (pinks and chums) in far northern regions, at least in part due to ocean ranching.

“In contrast, essentially all west coast North American Chinook populations including Alaska are now performing poorly with dramatically reduced productivity.”

There have been suggestions, albeit hard to prove, that the big kings may be losing out to the swarms of pinks and chums in the ocean competition for food.

An international team of scientists earlier this year argued the same thing appears to be happening to sockeye, and they singled out pink runs boosted by hatchery production as a key issue.

“From 2005 to 2015, the approximately 82 million adult pink salmon  produced annually from hatcheries were estimated to have reduced the productivity of southern sockeye salmon by 15 percent on average,” they wrote in a peer-reviewed paper published by the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Commercial fishermen – who fund non-profit Alaska hatcheries that help fill their nets with free-ranged hatchery fish – have shown little interest in the issue of inter-species competition between salmon and instead focused on MSY as the holy grail of a future salmon bounty despite disputes within fisheries management as to the value of the standard. 

Senator gillnetter

All of this in total is what led state Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang to suggest to the Council it simply get rid of a management headache by closing the federal waters of the Inlet to commercial harvest and letting the state take care of catching the necessary number of fish in state waters.

Micciche said such an  action would be a disservice to his constituents.

“My primary jobs responsibility is to listen to my constituents,” he wrote the Council. “I have not heard from a single individual supporting the closure of the EEZ….”

Micciche is the former manager of the Conoco-Phillips liquified natural gas (LNG) plant on the Kenai Peninsula. Like some other well-off residents of the region, he also owns a Cook Inlet drift gillnet permit.

The records of the state’s Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) indicate he obtained it in 1994. Though given to experienced commercial fishermen after the passage of the state’s so-called “limited entry” law in the early 1970s, the permits have been freely bought and sold ever since.

Worth $65,000 on average in ’94, according to the CFEC, their value has now declined to $23,100 as Inlet salmon harvests have declined and fish prices in general have fallen in a market today dominated by farmed salmon.

But if the analysis provided by Micciche in his letter to the Council is to be believed, closing the federal waters in the Inlet could render his permit worthless.

The closure proposal, “Alternative 4, will have dramatic negative consequences for the entire commercial fishing industry in Cook Inlet,” he wrote, “a commercial fishery which has been prosecuted for a well over a century. Generations of Peninsula family have lived a life of fishing these waters, providing a high-quality protein to the nation and the world. Young crew members have earned money for college while being installed with a work ethic which they carry with them for life. Altnerative 4 will likely put an end to commercial salmon fishing in Cook Inlet, and therefore, an Alaska way of life.”

Worse, he argued, it would destroy a delicate compromise between the many Alaskas competing for Inlet salmon.

“User groups in the Cook Inlet area have long struggled to find a balance between, sport, commercial, personal use and subsistence user groups,” he wrote. “Alternative 4 drives a stake through the heart of one user group causing any chance of balance to be eliminated and 40 years of successful fisheries management to erupt into chaos.”

The “balance” to which Micciche refers was overseen by the state Board of Fisheries. UCIDA filed suit because it didn’t like the Board’s version of balance.

The closure of the federal waters would not end commercial fishing in the Inlet. There is still plenty of state water in the 200-mile long Inlet. Most of the Inlet from Ninilchik north and east to Anchorage is state water.

And the closure of the EEZ would have no effect on the 740 commercial fishermen who use set gillnets to harvest salmon. The waters beyond the beaches worked by setnetters are home to about 570 fishermen who hold Cook Inlet drift permits. Exactly how many of them live on the Kenai Peninsula is unclear. 

The Peninsula is now home to about 60,000 people, according to the U.S. Census. Food security for thousands of them, if not tens of thousands of them, depends in part on salmon caught with dipnets or rod and reel.

UCIDA’s main complaint with Board of Fisheries management was that as the state grew the board was ever so slowly but steadily shifting some of the 90 perent of the salmon gillnetters once harvested to dipnetters and anglers – many of them visitors to the Kenai from Anchorage or Outside.

Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is a value judgment.

“Politics and doing the right thing are often at odds,” Micciche wrote the Council. “I respectfully request that in this case the right thing carries the day. Supporting Alternative 4 is not the right thing to do, and I believe in your hearts most of you know that to be the case.”

Seven of the 15 members of the Council represent public agencies, either federal or in the state’s of Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Of the other eight, all but one have direct connectons to the commercial fishng business.














42 replies »

  1. The bottom line here is that because of rulings by various courts on lawsuits brought to the courts by UCIDA the North Council must now make a clear choice. Do they vote for Alternative 2 which, after some 60 years of successful state management, would create a commercial salmon fishery managed by the Federal Government in the middle of Upper Cook Inlet which would, in essence, be exclusive for the Drift Fleet or do they support Alternative 4 which was submitted by the State of Alaska. Alternative 4 would close the federal waters at issue and, as a result, all commercial salmon fishing in Upper Cook Inlet would take place in state waters, all management plans would be developed through the Alaska Board of Fisheries process and all implementation would take place by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Let’s be clear, UCIDA did not bring these lawsuits forward to correct errors in regulation or to help assure that all users of the salmon resources within Upper Cook Inlet have successful fisheries. UCIDA is not happy with the management plans developed by the Alaska Board of Fisheries over the past 25 years or so and they are pursuing this course of action in the hopes of being able to harvest more salmon year in and out, simple as that. I have been a strong supporter of the Alaska Board of Fisheries process for many years and an even stronger supporter of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The claim that without the drift fleet fishing in the EEZ salmon management in Upper Cook Inlet is doomed to failure are essentially baseless. Given the opportunity to develop management strategies using only state waters I believe the Board of Fisheries would rise to the occasion, provide for the sustainability of the resource and the fair distribution of benefits and, the professionals at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would provide excellent implementation.

    • Kevin,
      The real bottom line is that alternative 4 is a backdoor attempt to eliminate commercial salmon fishing in cook inlet. You know it, Ben Mohr the executive director of krsa knows it,,and Bob Penney, founder of krsa knows it. Please don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

      • Gunner, your organization rolled the dice by filing the lawsuit in the first place. The greed of UCIDA is the problem. They have gotten bad advice time and time again from one of their members who used to be their executive director who is a known liar and still facing felony charges for PFD fraud.
        Instead of pursuing consolidation of the drift fleet they have now opened up a can of worms. Participation in a federally managed salmon fishery cannot discriminate against those who want to participate. It may well result in the opposite of consolidation unless the fishery is rationalized like the crab fisheries. And that opens up another can of worms.
        The ugly and unfortunate truth is that the Drift fishery is no longer needed and is dying. These last gasp efforts by the misguided few on the UCIDA board could speed up the demise of the fishery.
        That noise you hear in the background is the chuckles and quiet laughter of the ESSN set net crowd. How many of them have you seen on board the UCIDA greed wagon?

    • Kevin this is totally mistaken on your understanding and unfortunately is typical of the discussions.

      So lets set some facts out that hopefully we can agree on and then some understandings that you and others are probably not aware of.. I have not been involved recently but UCIDA position and the State is really not anything more than confusing a valid discussion and issue.

      1. Fact 1. The salmon of the United States are owned by the Federal Gov and not the States. Therefore their management has been covered by Fishery Management Plans and other Federal laws like the ESA and treaties. This is not a State rights issues -the State does not own the resource even in State waters.

      2. Fact 2. The present FMP discussion is because UCI had an FMP back in 1980 and it covered what the State was allowed to do with management. It was to be updated annually and the Federal Gov failed to do that. UCIDA suit challenged that inaction and won in Federal court. Thus this present FMP discussion is really an update. The Federal lawyers admitted in court that the Federal Gov was remiss in no updating the FMP over time. UCIDA was 100% correct to require an update. Alternative 2 is basically what the State and Federal Gov has been doing without review. The State wants to make this a State rights issue but the court already ruled against them. However, some of the State actions over the last 4 decades are probably not legal under M/S to a full review is justified.

      3. The M/S act is very complex and has a number of standards that must be met in management of Federal fisheries. The idea UCIDA suit is just about allocation is false. If you read their court filings they cover habitat issues, invasive species, escapement goals and management goals, community impacts, and other standards in M/S. They may think they will get additional fish but that is not a given that M/S has provisions that could reduce harvest. For example, a State cannot allocate salmon just to residents (clearly stated in M/S). So the FMP could require the PU fishery to be open to non-residents. What is in the FMP and what will be legal will depend on court rulings. No one knows at this point. I am sure UCIDA will sue if the FMP is limited to just the EEZ and does not meet their desire. It does not mean they will win. It also means they are somehow bad players given the law is clear and the courts agreed. The Federal Gov should have done its job.

      4. One point that keeps getting hit on is the escapement goals.. M/S does require a federal review and in point of fact a partial review has already been done for Kenai sockeye. UCIDA wants a review of other goals and species. One has to agree that the present State system is not consistent with best science practices. For example, just adding fish for precautionary reasons must have a scientific rationale. There are other problems and goals for species not counted like pinks and chums must be dealt with.

      5. This is really out of hand because of UCI users. If you look to other States with FMP they are very inclusive of habitat concerns and the M/S standards. UCI is just a mess because of the user groups and I mean all of them plus the State is not playing fairly. The Commissioner should not be in the middle of allocation and trying to use the FMP for that purpose.

      6. If the Federal Gov was to get involved with invasive species, habitat, and science review and studies it could be a win win. We did that in studying Tustumena Lake sockeye and it worked great.

      7. M/S does require the harvest of pink and chum at a level higher than today. However, while people assume the drift fleet wants those fish that may not happen. M/S could create via the FMP a pink seine fishery. Seines are legal gear in UCI so thinking outside the box is well within the options of the M/S act.

      I guess I am saying putting motives to user groups, how the FMP will eventually look, and what is legal or not will be decided in the future. This first round is just the start and I can assure you that if money is available for court the final FMP will not look like the first draft.

  2. Alaskans First, you have no idea what you’re talking about! the idea that PU and Sport Fiisheries could reasonably harvest the sockeye over escapement is laughable. It’s thinking like this that has lead to degradation of the Kenai. I dont understand the despicable mentality of screwing the Commercial fleet without any appreciable benefit to other user groups. Because of uneducated non biological management pressure from groups like you the river has been over escaped for a decade. The Sockeye are smaller and the returns will never recover as long as the Kenai is Politically managed by idiots!

    • Calm down old man. The sockeye are smaller. It has nothing to do with Kenai escapement. It is a well-documented, Pacific-wide phenomenon.

      And nobody is going to “screw the commercial fleet” if for no other reason than the one you note: there are no other fisheries with the harvest capacity to take its place.

      How the harvest is prosecuting will, however, have to change. If I were in charge, I’d shift the setnet fishery to shallow nets fished basically every day but tended and with a requirement to roll live Chinook. I’d even be willing to trust setnetters to decide what Chinook was live and which not, though I’d bet that with shallow nets there king catch would drop significantly.

      And with daily openings, you could even put them all on the high tides, which would also help pass kings. But Cook Inlet commercial fishermen hate innovation so much they’d probably complain about getting all the extra fishing time they’ve been whining about losing for years.

    • Steve S:
      You might want to brush up on your reading skills. You would then note that I did not suggest the harvesting capability of just the PU and Sports fisheries would be enough. I also included the ESSN fishery. If managed properly those fisheries could likely harvest enough Sockeye to satisfy those who subscribe to the myth of harm from over escapement. Of course the challenge then would be to keep the set net crowd off the Chinook. Medred’s ideas about that make sense.
      Another option would be to eliminate the ESSN fishery all together, take the drift fleet out of the EZZ, and keep them far enough away from the heavy Chinook areas near shore, and let them harvest away. Either way one of the commercial Net fisheries probably needs to go away.

      • no offense but your idea maes no sense. First the ESSN fishery does not have the fishing power on larger returns. Next they do not harvest chums and pinks in high numbers. Finally the fish move to the beach quickly and they just cannot handle them. You need the drift fleet if you want to meet goals

      • Ken T, you may be right. But I bet that the ESSN fishers would like to give it a try. Heck, give them an additional
        Net and reduce net depth. Give the PU an additional couple weeks. Double the sports limits. See what happens. Especially if the returns continue their slide.

    • Steve S.
      After re reading my posts I can see where one of my comments led you to believe I thought just the PU and Sports fisheries had would have enough harvest capacity to avoid over escapement. I neglected to add the ESSN fishery to that capacity. The other replies to Tarbox and Gunner clearly stated that I believed that including the ESSN harvest capacity would likely be enough. So I admit to needing to brush up on my reading skills a bit also.
      More importantly is what you think about eliminating one of the commercial Net fisheries. In order to for either to survive it seems that they have to either drastically consolidate or one had to go away.

  3. I’d still like to know how the salmon managed to survive and thrive before all the “experts” came along to manage “over escapement”. It’s amazing there were any salmon at all in Alaska before all the agencies were created to manage them. It’s as if nature can’t survive on its own without an entire army of bureaucrats. Sounds more to me like a scientific-sounding label to justify a certain user group’s greed.

    • Seriously,
      Overescapements will not lead to extinction of a species. If left totally unharvested,salmon runs would survive. What we are trying to avoid by managing for maximum sustained yields,is boom and bust cycle when some years have huge runs followed by lean runs. A good example is snowshoe hare cycle abundance. If one looks at native alaskan history,there is abundant testimony from native elders of feast and famine concerning salmon runs

  4. You know, guys this is all rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Nothing, absolutely nothing being proposed by the feds, UCIDA, ADF&G will restore the king runs anywhere in the Inlet. We engage in an increasingly bitter fight over a decreasing resource while there is a solution staring us in our face, and has been for at least 30 years.

    That solution is fish farming. Start trading commfish permits for plots of land / water for onshore / offshore fish farms. The more nets out of the water, the more fish return to the various streams. Who knows, maybe we will even see fish stocks of concern recover.

    Why don’t we even contemplate such a solution? Far too much fun to bash one another about the head and shoulders in righteous indignation. Cheers –

  5. Shouldn’t have UCIDA realized, or at least thought that this was a potential option when they decided to bring the FEDS into the conversation?

    This wouldn’t kill the drift fleet but it would change it. Heaven forbid, it might even make it more efficient. Bristol Bay is restricted to areas near specific rivers, there are a lot more boats in the Bay. If drifters were confined to an area where the fish were more concentrated, chances are they would catch more fish per unit effort. They would use less fuel saving them money and countless hours catching few if any fish, they could do like the Northline at Egigik and just lay down their nets cork for cork and fill their fish hold in a few sets! Come to think of it, why aren’t these guys the champions of the lawsuit they fought for and the only option that makes the most sense for them?

    • BB fish behave differently and shoulld not be used for comparison. n UCI early fish tend to hold in the inlet between 4 and 14 days They stay in the EEZ so on large returns the drift fleet can fish on them for a couple of periods. There are few fish north. Later as the fish move north they stay 2 days so on large returns there is notenough fishing time or effort to harvest them unless one wants to fish every day. Enter problem with ND coho. Early in EEZ they ate not present in large numbers. Later they are mixed with Northern fish. Also remember UCI boats can hold 1000 1200 fish so that dictates fishing time. Also processors have limited capacity and on large returns could not handle the fish. They need the harvest spread out for both capacity and quality This is just Kenai. Most Kasilof drift fleet fish are harvested in the EEZ. They do not move north

      I doubt the closure will withstand a court challenge. The previous ruling made it clear the feds just cannot walk away from federal law. We will see.

      UCIDA wants federal oversight in option 2. Federal biologists tend to be conservative. UCIDA may be sorry. For example federal laws says states cannot make salmon fisheries exclusive to to state residents. It may mean non residents could fish. That would reduce commercial harvest

      UCI is tough to manage and the Board of fish trying to micromanage has created a mess. This State proposal is about allocation not good fishery mansgement.

  6. Speaking to the subject. What I see is the heart of the ecosystem and perhaps it is sensible to regulate this patch of critical ecosystem. It is a common resource. so lets make it commonly good.

  7. Sorry to be off topic tonight, but I was just saying yesterday how we have far bigger problems in Alaska than the Wuhan Virus and then I see a story like this tonight.
    If the state continues down the path of “lockdowns” and adding stress to everyone lives with their media fear campaigns then we will have more violent crimes from deteriorating mental health and far more lives will be loss to suicide and homicides then were ever at risk to Rona.
    The poor mental health situation throughout the state is the real epidemic facing us as we approach 2021 & their is not a vaccine that can help.

  8. There are two sides to every story. I would suggest those interested in this issue read Dermot Coles blog, reporting from alaska. A much different view of this situation.

    • Yeah, poor Dermot, doesn’t know a setnet from a driftnet and got nicely played by some of his Democrat friends.

      Closing the EEZ has little or no benefit for Kenai Chinook, the fish of Bob Penney’s dreams. It is almost sure to require more fishing with the setnet fishery, which has long had the big problem with king bycatch (as you well know) and which is why Penney pushed an initiative to eliminate that gear type.

      Dermot, having apparently transferred his Trump Derangement Syndrome to Dunleavy, got taken for a ride. I doubt Dermot is even aware Penney was previously the big backer behind Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles.

      If Dunleavy was influenced by a special interest here, it would most likely be his old friends back in the Mat-Su who are philosophically opposed, in a big way, to mixed-stock fisheries, and that is the only kind of fishery that exists in the EEZ. I’m sure the folks in the Mat-Su would prefer to have the UCI drift fleet confined to the corridor for forever.

      • Craig,
        I didn’t know Knowles was backed by Penney. That explains why Knowles stacked the b.of with appointments that were anti cook inlet comm fish. I had no idea.

  9. This is a complex issue both legal and biological. The courts will define the legal and speculations ae useless. The MS act is over 100 pages and lots of unanswered questions. UCIDA won on one An FMP must be written. what is in it will be in court – eg does it apply to State waters for some provisions. It has in other States but they have other federal laws in play. So just wait and see. I can say for sure no journalists knows.

    Next is fishery management issues. UCIDA is wrong. There will be a fishery. On Kenai and Kasilof smaller returns the fishery can wait until fish move north of the EEZ if allowed to fish. The set nets can fish depending on chinook. The quality of the fishh will be poorer and there will be more fishing time which could increase ND coho harvest. More set net harvest could increase Kenai coho.

    On large returns say greater than 3.5 million the drift fleet and industry will lose harvest and the harvest will be poorer quality. Fish processors will not have time to process the harvest. Fish will sit on the docks in iced totes for days.

    Relative to over escapement when one has a goal and one goes over it there is lost harvest. Over escapement discussions is about yield not the health of the fish stock. Besides lost harvest in year one there is lost harvest in future years. On the Kenai sockeye agreed it takes place just under what conditions. However one can just look at the returns. When spawners get above 1.4 million yield is decreased The data are in numerous reports. ADFG uses production curves for chinook which are the same as for sockeye. On the Kenai the biology of this issue is complex and trying to use one year or speculate on what the goal should be is. a fun game but not productive. This is part of UCIDA suit. Federal oversight and review may be required by law.

    In summary Craig if you want to get inti it you need a lot more explaining as you are confusing the public.

    • Care to explain this “Besides lost harvest in year one there is lost harvest in future years” in more detail? If lost harvest results in more returning salmon in subsequent years then your statement is false. History has proven in many cases on many rivers that “lost harvest” has resulted in more returning salmon in subsequent years. In fact the system we have now and our current abundance can be blamed on that very principal can it not?

    • Ken Tarbox, what makes you think there will be runs of over 3.5 million again. The trend certainly does not look good for large returns in the future.
      Do you think that the harvesting capability of the ESSN fleet together with the PU, sports and guided sports fishers would be powerful enough to keep from grossly exceeding sockeye escapement goals. In answering assume far more liberal Opportunities for all those users. Why not let PU fishers harvest a million sockeye? They would be used by Alaskans to feed their friends and families. Why not allow more liberal harvest by anglers. They are an economic engine for the area and State. Why not let the ESSN fishers more time in August after the bulk of the Kings are in the river. Take the drifters out of the equation and the Northern district rivers will once again flourish. Those set betters will once again have reasonable opportunity. As will anglers.
      Times change! There was never a guaranty that owning a CFEC permit meant you could catch fish. Losing the drift fleet would not result in other than a blip in the numbers of Salmon harvested state wide. Additional
      Economics generated by the other users would quickly make up for the loss suffered by eliminating the drift fleet.

      • Ak1st u make good points at the 30,000” view.
        But that solution wont be so easy legally nor legislatively.
        If your one of the stakeholders your reaching for 2 things:
        The maalox and the keys to the gun safe

      • Runs cycle so history says the runs will be larger in the future. The average kenai return is around 3.4 million but 5 million fish come to the inlet.

        Relative to PU the limits exceed what people want. The average PU harvest is around 22 per family because that is all they want.

        ESSN should fish more in early August

  10. I don’t think the State has the authority to just close the EEZ. Perhaps the Feds could, but I believe that would run counter to their own Magnuson- Stevens Act and I doubt Congress will want to wallow in that tar pit Who comes up with these stupid ideas?

  11. I just had a thought: Is it possible in the universe somewhere there is a planet even MORE conducive to life? It seems impossible but what if? How could it be better than this?
    Think about it.

    • Maybe an oxygen rich atmosphere? So we could grow as big as dinosaurs?And a lot of them were on a plant-based diet!

      • The agricultural science overwhelmingly says that enriching the CO2 levels in the atmosphere will increase the productivity of photosynthetic organisms at the bottom of the food chain both on land and in the ocean. This would make the earth more conducive to life all the way up the food chair.
        This only works up to a certain level, but the biological sciences make it clear that the atmosphere is currently well below that level.

        Enriching Oxygen would not have near the positive effect as enriching CO2.

    • BTW if we really want a cooler global climate, we could start producing massive quantities of a gas to bind with carbon dioxide so it precipitates out of the atmosphere. into the ocean.

      • Hopefully increased precipitation in the Himalayas calcium geology will neutralize the resulting ocean acidification. As has occurred before in geologic history.

  12. Anyone who fished the Kenai this summer knows the “second run” of sockeyes was bank to bank pinks.

  13. I am very familiar with the Kenai River having been on it or on its banks for over 50 years during spring, summer and fall months. I have seen the bottom of the upper Kenai covered with Sockeye eggs bank to bank. And there have been seasons where it was hard to see any eggs.

    This year the ADF&G reported that escapement exceeded the goals set by the BOF. Yet there were not near the eggs as normally seen in an average year. People very familiar with Kenai salmon runs reported that the Dept’s Sockeye sonar salmon counts were highly inaccurate and they were counting Pink salmon as Sockeyes. Given that the Pink run was robust those observations make sense.

    I believe that between the P.U., guided sport and non guided sport sectors that there is enough harvest power to prevent any fears of over escapement. And if more than the arbitrary goals escape, nature wins. Wildlife and the eco system benefit. In the meantime the State and the region will benefit from the economics by maximizing opportunities in non commercial sectors. Study after study has shown that these sectors produce far more economic benefits than come from the archaic commercial drift fisheries.

    UCIDA failed to anticipate the consequences of their lawsuit and now face the prospect of the Feds simply closing the EEZ area to salmon fishing. And it makes sense. The Drift fishery on the Kenai is failing. It needs to go.

  14. Haven’t the escapement goals been lowered over the years? Think that is correct for some fisheries and in that case the commercial lobby is getting it both ways. Less fish in the systems and the increased ability to whine about over escapement.

    • The escapement goals are a guess made by people designated as “experts”.
      Their job description forces them to guess, so they do.
      But it is still just an educated guess made by humans subject to all the political out there.

    • Bob
      The answer to your question is no. Escapement goals on the kenai and kasilok have increased in recent years. But thanks for your interest.

  15. I sure would like to witness this over escapement they cry about all the time. No tourists this year and still didn’t see it.

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