Dividing the baby

An Alaska king salmon, the cause of so many problems/Craig Medred photo

Alaska’s Kenai River is today a textbook example of the problems of managing mixed-stock fisheries right down to commercial set gillnetters protesting they catch comparatively few of the weak stock.

The weak stock is in this case Chinook, or what Alaskans usually just call king salmon, and it just happens to be the same fish that gets caught as trawl bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.

To date this year, according to National Marine Fisheries Service data, trawlers in the Bering Sea have caught about 11,000 Chinook on their way to a harvest of nearly 1 million metric tons – or about 2.2 billion pounds – of pollock.

Given an average size of about 6.5 pounds for those immature Chinook, the salmon harvest would total about 32.4 tonnes of salmon for a catch equal to about 0.00324 percent of the pollock catch.

But that 32.4 tonnes of Chinook is only about a quarter of the just over 45,000 Chinook permitted as trawl bycatch in the pollock fishery.

Many Alaskans think this is too much. These numbers work out to nearly 133 tonnes or about 0.12 percent of the 113,227 tonnes of pollock permitted to harvest this year. 

The commercial harvest of Chinook in Upper Cook Inlet (UCI), as reported by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, is 3,705; the sockeye harvest is nearly 1.4 million.

This puts the UCI bycatch of Chinook at a rate more than twice that of the trawl fleet, although the number is probably closer to twice that when the size difference between Chinook and sockeye.

But this is hardly worth bothering about given that commercial gillnetters involved in the east-side set net fishery – where most Kenai kings get caught – insist they mainly catch “small kings,” not the big Kenai spawners.

“On July 20, East Side setnetters fished their last day for the season, restricted to the 600-foot fishery from Boulder Point to Ninilchik. In the 12 hours that day, they harvested 36,668 sockeye and 72 kings. According to Fish and Game estimates, 11 of those kings were large late-run Kenai River kings,” the Anchorage Daily News, the state’s largest newspaper, reported.

The newspaper did not put these numbers together on its own. They were handed to a reporter by eastside setnetters who’ve made a big deal out of the idea that they catch a small number of kings and that, in this case, only a little over 15 percent of them were “big” kings.

King Solomon-size problem

This may be true, although there is no way of knowing how many kings might have been rolled out of nets dead because in a situation like the one this year it is to the advantage of setnetters to keep the reported king harvest as low as possible to encourage the state to keep their fishery open.

What is certainly true is that because of the weak return of kings, the setnetters have been forced to sit on the beach and watch a whole lot of money go up the river in the form of leaping salmon, and the number of fish going upriver could have negative implications for future returns.

Set nets off the mouth of the Kenai are one of the main means of controlling how many sockeye salmon escape into the river, and the record escapement this year is way over state goals.

As of this writing, the escapement is near 2.4 million – about twice the maximum goal – and still rising.

The exact consequences of this are impossible to say. Scientists aren’t much better at predicting the future than any of the rest of us no matter what kind of math they employ.

Nature is subject to too many variables. But the consensus of scientific opinion, supported by data from other fisheries, is that this high escapement is likely to reduce the “return per spawner” number for the 2021 run.

So years in the future, instead of the UCI getting back three adult sockeye for every one that spawned, there might only be two adults or one or maybe even less than one indicating the river has truly “over-escaped,”as it is said.

The previous record escapement was 2.03 million in 1989. It produced a return of 2.2 adults per spawner. The river has never produced a return of less than 1.22, according to the latest state escapement review done in 2020, and so no one really knows where the point of biological over-escapement – which pushes the return below one-to-one – vexists. 

That 1.22 return followed an escapement of more than 1.2 million sockeye in 2012. But the record return in 1989 produced a return per spawner of 2.20.

Commercial fishermen fantasize about the nearly 12 adults per spawner returns that were seen off escapements of 750,000 to 800,000 in 1982 and 1983.

But returns in that range haven’t always produced at such levels. The 1990 return of 794,000 produced only 1.90 adults for every spawner; the 1993 return of 920,000 only 1.69.

Needless to say, returns per spawner are highly variable because nature is full of variables. A 1987 escapement of more than 2 million produced a return of 5.15 adults per spawner and a “yield” of 8.3 million sockeye.

Farming the sea

Yield is the standard by which farmers measure success and the Inlet’s commercial fishermen like this yardstick. Fishery biologists manage for “maximum sustained yield” (MSY). To do so, they  crunch decades of data in an effort to arrive at numbers indicating the highest probability of the maximum return per spawner.

Where the situation gets complicated is when the MSYs for sockeye and Chinook conflict.. The minimum MSY for Kenai kings is now 15,000 “large king salmon – fish over 34 inches in length.

The size is an arbitrary one. Some spawning kings are smaller than 34 inches, but the sonar used to count fish in the river can’t reliably differentiate between sockeyes and Chinook under 34 inches.

Thus the spawner standard is unique to the Kenai. The escapement goals for the rivers in the state’s Pandhandle are calculated to include “include large spawners of approximate legal retention size, 28 inches total length,” according to Fish and Game. 

How many kings of between 28 and 34 inches enter the Kenai is unknown. What is known is that the state last year missed the minimum goal for 34-inch fish by more than 3,500 fish, or about 23 percent, and by more than 3,100 fish, or about 21 percent, a year earlier.

This year’s count – despite an emergency closure of the commercial set net fishery for sockeye in July – came in about the same as 2019 with almost two-thirds of those fish having escaped into the river since the set net fishery was closed.

The dilemma fishery managers confront in a situation like this is whether to manage for the strong stock – sockeye salmon, in this case – or the weak stock – Chinook, in this case.

The history of management for strong stocks is the collapse of weak stocks. Because of this the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which governs fisheries in federal waters, strictly spell out management standards:

“Salmon stocks are managed to allow sufficient numbers of mature salmon to escape harvest (called ‘escapement’) and return to freshwater to spawn. Under the Salmon Fishery Management Plan (FMP), to ensure long-term sustainability, each salmon stock must meet its prescribed escapement level.

“For determining whether a salmon stock is ‘approaching overfished,’ its escapement is considered over a three-year period. When its escapement forecast in the current year combined with actual escapement in the two previous years falls short of the level prescribed in the FMP, then the stock is determined to be ‘approaching overfished.'”

By federal standards, Kenai Chinook would now be overfished. But state managers are not bound by federal rules. They have the latitude to use some disgression, which brings the discussion back to the number of small kings setnetters catch and the decision by Commissioner of Fish and Game Doug Vincent-Lang to put the state’s interest in the escapement of Chinook into the Kenai River above the interest of commercial fishermen in catching more sockeye.


The commercial fishermen appealed to the state Board of Fisheries, the ultimate authority on the regulation of Alaska fisheries, and the Board backed Vincent-Lang.


Primarily because managing any fishery by a snapshot of one point in time is a bad idea. The numbers presented to the Board by set net fishermen would indicate that about 85 percent of the Chinook returning to the river this year were under 34 inches.

Were this true across the run, the Kenai should now contain more than 6.5 times the number of Chinook counted by the sonar. This would put almost 77,000 Chinook  (the end-of-season sonar count of 11,832 x 6.5) in the river.

Were there that many kings in the Kenai, the anglers now there fishing coho (silver) salmon with lures similar to those used for kings would surely be reporting the incidental hooking of a lot of small Chinook.

They’re not.

Likewise, by this math, there should have been more than 25,500 Chinook in the river by July 21 instead of the 3,953 shown on the counter that date.

That was the day the state closed the in-river fishery for Chinook. No fishing guides, who depend on king anglers for a fair amount of their summer income, showed up at Fish and Game offices to protest the closure because 85 percent of the fish they were hooking were under 34 inches.

It should be noted that anglers are allowed to keep “small” king salmon,  but in this case “small” is defined as under 20 inches. A 20-inch Chinook is smaller than many Kenai sockeye.

Those fish weigh so little that Chinook length-to-weight conversion charts end at 25 inches and 6.49 pounds. Kings of this size are what are called “jacks,” precocious males that make an early return to participate in spawning.

A size-to-weight chart for trout – fish similar in size and weight to salmon – puts a 20-inch fish at between two pounds, nine ounces and three pounds, six ounces.

The commercial setnetters were noticeably not reporting a lot of kings of that size. They were reporting catches of bigger fish, though many of them were wishing the fish had avoided their nets and freed them to fish sockeye.

Is it possible the set net fishery could be prosecuted in such a manner as to let fix this so-called “bycatch” problem.

Possibly, but exactly how to do that has not been determined because the idea is not well studied. Shallower nets are theorized to let more kings slip beneath, but the theory has not been proven.

It is also possible, if not probable, that some set net sites catch a disproportionate number of Chinook and that if those sites were shut down, the Chinook harvest could be significantly reduced.

But no one has ever examined that possibility because how much of this state resource is taken by individual fishing businesses is considered privileged information.

Oil companies, big or small, are required to report how much oil they take out of the ground in Alaska. Loggers, big or small, are required to report how much timber they harvest from public lands in the 49th state, and the same for commercial miners on state lands.

In state waters, however, individual fishing businesses are allowed to keep this information secret. Historically, this probably well served the fishermen who might have stood to be publicly singled out for the high Chinook harvests,

But now all fishermen might be paying the price.











25 replies »

  1. Craig, I guess I will just have to say that friends of mine that dipnet have told me about their observance on several occasions of people keeping Kings. This year they even confronted them to no avail. As for giving you their name I wouldn’t subject them to a background check and an article about to be printed about their past that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. I guess we need to put it in the same category about you identifying the setnetters who are not reporting their kings. If you can give me their names I will ask them myself.
    As for the other poultry growers that had to file ch 13, most of us know each other and they know that over the years I have fought for them and other growers and that I am still fighting to have changes made and also helping them on their individual suits.. And believe it or not, some policies are being changed from our fight.
    Also, I do not blame sportfishermen and guides for what is happening in Cook Inlet as you have led your readers to believe. Yes, I do believe guides and charters are a form of commercial fishermen just as friends of mine that charter operators in the Gulf of Mexico consider themselves commercial fishermen. That belief however does not equate to blaming them for the problem at hand.

    • Tried to “like” this Russell, but was unable to. Just want to comment that this was a very reasonable post by someone who has been drug in the dirt by the author of this blog.

      • Also would like to point out that Russel’s first post which started Craigs dragging his name through the mud.,was pretty spot on. He did make the mistake of saying medred sits behind a computer, when most of us know Craig is a very accomplished outdoorsman( particularly enjoy his waterfowling exploits,, with lars and the other wonderful gundogs),but otherwise I feel he has doe a fair job of defending his industry against attacks by mostly uninformed posters who have a bias against commercial salmon fishing.

      • Just to be clear. If Mr. Clark’s name got dragged “through the mud,” it wasn’t me doing the dragging.

        Facts are facts. In Mr. Clark’s case, they also became pertinent to the news. He put himself out there as one of those historic ESSN suffering because of how Cook Inlet fisheries are regulated. That begs for a reporter to go find out just what sort of financial trouble the man is in.

        In Mr. Clark’s case, that turned out to be an interesting story.

    • russel you made a funny statement! Have you ever got down in the mud and dipnetted Cook Inlet? No you haven’t and you use heresay to claim dippers keep kings ! A nearly impossible act . Under cover fish cops on the beach and witness every where . Your friend is not reliable. You are just a talking head who never was there . Why have you never been there ? Is it possible you are not yet a resident and you are only up here to scalp alaskas fish for profits and you dont give a rats ass about the long term viability of fishing in Alaska because you will be long gone into your next buisness failure after pushing this one over the brink with your deception. Are you even an Alaska resident? Talking head indeed. Russell,You define such .

  2. The next column title should be “The Eviceration of Alaska’s wildlife resources in the name of Best Available Science”.(BAS).

    How long will Alaskans remain willingly ignorant that Alaskans is among the worst managed wildlife habitats on the planet. What does it take to get your attention?
    Do you have to see the last King Salmon gone before you even begin questioning the sanity, intelligence and ethical character of Alaska’s Board of Game, Board of Fisheries and their most dutiful protector of BAS, the honorable Doug Vincent-Lang?

    Do you even know that the Bag Limit for King Salmon is one in Alaska and three King Salmon in Lake Michigan? Do you know why? Do you even care?
    The reason is surprisingly STUPID simple. Michigan chose Traditional Knowledge over BAS. Not only Michigan, but throughout the Great Lakes states, and Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California. For good measure you can throw in New Zealand and Argentina. All following Traditional Knowledge, not what passes for BAS in Alaska. All of these management systems followed the most basic of teachings. Feed it and it will grow. Starve it and it will die.

    BAS is a false heretical teaching of those who once followed Aldo Leopold, the founder of the Wildlife Society who learned his craft not from BAS but from Traditional Knowledge.

    This BAS concept of managing Escapement is an out of control science experiment claimed to be managed by the educated elite of ADF&G. In fact it is an exercise in how soon will this patient die. Under ADF&G’s skillful BAS supervision, we now have rivers sending their fry into the ocean one full year before they should. And to quote Vincent-Lang’s predecessor when he testified in front of Senator Sullivan when he denounced Traditional Knowledge “I have over a hundred years of BAS salmon management talent working for ADF&G, Senator.” “We don’t know why King Salmon fry are leaving the Susitna one year early. We suspect it has to do with that Blob out there in the ocean. However if you give us enough money, we will sure find out. “

    Save your money Senator it’s not that difficult. It’s less some Blob out there in the ocean and more likely a bigger Blob of BAS between the ears of Alaska’s ultimate authorities.

    There is only one reason a king salmon fry will head out into the cold dark ocean one year before it should. There’s no food at home. That’s not a king salmon fry, prepared to take the largest ocean on the planet. That’s bait. No wonder king salmon are coming back to spawn smaller and smaller, year after year.

    They are not growing because the river they were born to can no longer sustain them under BAS management. Billions of ton of bio nutrients are no longer cycling in Alaska rivers because of BAS management. Those nutrients are not there to feed the fry, or the soils, or any of the millions of species that once relied on this critical resource for survival, including humans.

    These lands once recorded ten months of abundant seafood harvests, not ten weeks, or soon to be ten days.

    Ask, if you can, the Kenai moose, what the loss of salmon has meant to them. BAS will scoff and call it nonsense. The Kenai bears know different. Because of BAS management they have been habituated away from salmon that no longer returns in numbers that can sustain them, and have instead met their nutrient needs by harvest moose calves at an incredible rate. Not so says BAS management, Then why did Alaska Governor Hammond’s ADF&G Commissioner document a Kenai moose annual harvest of 2,400 and BAS Protector Vincent-Lang documented an annual Kenai moose harvest of 66? Why is there an unpublished ADF&G study from 2013 video documenting 7 Alaska bears harvesting 238 calves in 45 days? Is this BAS?

    Traditional Knowledge teaches that if you expect to harvest you must reseed the resource, Alaska Rivers. That’s the only reason the Great Lakes states, the continental Pacific states, New Zealand, and Argentina are have successful returns. This Traditional knowledge is documented to be 14,000 years old. Traditional Knowledge teaches that if you are not reseeding Alaska Salmon into Alaska Rivers, you don’t have the right to call it harvesting. Because you’re not harvesting, you in fact are mining.
    Reseed Alaska.

    Now it’s time for the BAS rebuttal, rebuke and disinformation that we have all become accustomed to.

  3. It’s articles like this that are part of the problem. When talking heads only report part of the information and part of the information they do report is false then that reporter should not be trusted. This article fails to give any statistics on sport caught kings and king fatality due to catch and release. Any opportunity to slam East Side setnetters is never passed up by this reporter who is biased for the sport fishing industry. Believe it or not the sportfishing guides and charters are all commercial fishermen. Their job is to crank out as many fish as possible which is fine but let’s go ahead and call it what it is.
    Also, you need to get out from behind your computer and actually go out and see how things are done before you start lying about setnetters being deceptive on reporting kings. Go and watch some deliveries and see how fish are sorted. Go and see the totes that are designated for All kings no matter their size. Biologists come to each station to take samples. This is the problem when you have someone that sits behind a computer and makes their living criticizing people that work their butts off in often dangerous situations and put in long hard hours to provide for their families. You talk about kings being bycatch for setnetters but say nothing about kings that are kept by dipnetters and sport caught. Again you show your bias. In essence the only thing you accomplish is to stir the pot and turn everybody against each other. So in that respect you accomplish your goal.

    • Russell: Am I really expected to listen to this from some guy who didn’t enter this fishery until 2005, according to CFEC records, and until 2019 was just someone from Oklahoma coming up here in the summer to pocket some extra cash and go home.

      Are you even living here now?

      I see that in your Oklahoma bankruptcy filing for the chicken ranch it says that you are “in the commercial fishing business, with operations in Alaska since 2002. They do not intend to resume poultry or cattle operations, but intend to focus on salmon fishing in Alaska. They wish to keep enough property in Oklahoma to live on during the off season, and to sell the rest of their property to pay their debts.”

      I’m glad to see you own some unencumbered property and that bankruptcy didn’t totally destroy you. I hate to see people go broke.

      But I do wonder about this as an admitted Alaska-firster:

      “Debtors have two lifetime commercial salmon fishing permits issued by the State of Alaska. Each permit allows them to have two leases annually. They estimate the value of their four salmon fishing leases at $ 68,000. They move to Alaska in late May for salmon fishing season and return to Oklahoma in October. They each fish in different locations in Cook Inlet, have four boats and four to six employees. They provided past and future forecasts for salmon fishing published by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The 2019 forecasts are for a higher than average harvest.”

      So it appears you spend a little over five months per year in Alaska, and you expect special treatment because you bought a couple fishing permits back in the early 2000s?

      I was a reporter covering Cook Inlet fishery issues for about 20 years before you got here. I really don’t need a lecture on how the business works from some late arrival nor to listen to accusations from someone who appears unable to understand it is better to talk out of one’s head than out of one’s ass, to be blunt.

      Now, as to your specific concerns about catch-and-release mortality and sport fish harvests.

      No one knows for certain what the mortality on C&R sport fishing or the mortality on setnet dropouts. The former appears to be low based on studies from years ago; the latter is a total unknown.

      And there is a big difference between fisheries here in that the sport fishery is a targeted fishery easy to open and close based on the availability of fish. It’s much the same for the dipnet fishery. The latter was closed to kings from the get-go. I’m sure there were some caught and released but I’d guess the number small. I never saw one caught in the hours and hours I spent watching those beaches.

      The sport fishery, meanwhile, was restricted from the start of the season, and shut down as soon as it became obvious there was a king shortage. The restriction on fishing prior to that – a ban on bait – is the sport fish equivalent of fishing with a 10-mesh-deep set net.

      Your bycatch problems might be solved if you went that route, but the set net fishery has long opposed shallower nets even if they might well mean more fishing time, a lot more fishing time. With a 10-mesh-deep net you might be allowed to fish every day with Chinook going beneath and those sockeye jumpers, and the ones close to them getting caught.

      Yes, you’d have to work harder, but you’d get to fish more.

      As for setnetters being deceptive as to king catches, the simple reality of human behavior is that some are likely to be deceptive as is the case with some in just about every group in the world. Or are you trying to tell me setnetters are as a group as honest as professional golfers?

      If so, I’m not buying because I’ve known too many setnetters, and given the situation this summer, the economic incentive to roll kings out of the net dead or alive instead of selling them was huge. Talking heads never underestimate the influence of money, and you would appear from the record to be a guy interested in money.

      Maybe the easy solution here is to just make everything fair and put you on a two-king per year limit like any Oklahoma angler who flies up here to fish the Kenai in the summer. If you catch more than two, you have to pull the nets for the rest of the season. What do you think of that idea?

      It’s certainly fairer than the zero-king limit imposed on dipnetters, whom I’m sure would love to have a king or two to take home.

      I noticed you didn’t mention how unfairly they are treated. Why aren’t they allowed any kings at all? Because let’s face it, if you’ve ever walked those dipnet beaches, there are clearly some people there who could use the fish just to subsist. It is interesting that the folk in need of what is now called “food security” are at the very back of the line in the harvest discussion.

      But, then again, M-O-N-E-Y. I do hope your bankruptcy worked out OK. It appears you did work hard most of your life to get ahead in Oklahoma, and it’s unfair when things turn to shit for no reason of your own. From the sounds of that bankruptcy filing, one might think OK Foods shafted a bunch of farmers.

      I grew up in farm country before I took off for Alaska in ’73. I saw too much bad corporate behavior there.

      • Let’s face it. You make your living from behind the computer which is great, I have no problem with that. I have made my living ranching, poultry and swine production, and commercial fishing. In every aspect of food production there are problems and there are groups at odds with each other. That’s just the way it is.
        You may have been reporting a long time before I ever showed up in Alaska but that doesn’t change the fact that you are biased and inaccurate in your articles. Hey, I don’t have a problem with you addressing problems in the setnet fishery but what I have a problem with is that you are only giving your readers part of the real story and that part is often inaccurate.
        Your legitimacy is really in question when someone calls you out on your bias that you do a background check on them and then print what you find without knowing the details in order to defame them. Very unprofessional and the act of a weak individual.
        In your articles you are one-sided against setnetters. Every article where you spew hate against the setnetters is as if you are expecting a Pat on the head from your master as a dog that has fetched its masters slippers. As for dippers catching kings and not releasing them I wouldn’t bring it up if I didn’t know of actual instances told to me by people that have witnessed it. Most dippers are honest and great people. Most sports guides are honest and decent people. Most commercial fishermen are honest and decent people. But in all groups there are those that aren’t. You just choose to focus on setnetters.
        I could go in and do a background check on you and print what I find like you did on me but that’s not me. Yes, I filed Ch 11 after my integrator was bought out by a large Mexican corporation and then put chicks infected with hepatitus on a large number of farms and then used the casualties to shut down a large number of their farms in order to replace them with larger complexes. Why didn’t you print about the families that lost everything litigation against this integrator? Your investigation should also have told you that I am paying back every dollar to my debtors by voluntarily selling off what we have worked a lifetime to build. I am the only poultry farmer doing that. The others had to go through ch 13 liquidation and debt discharge. And then I have to read your biased articles stirring up crap against setnetters.
        I have often brought up in meetings with legislators and F&G officials that what is happening is the Kenai is being managed when the fish hit Cook Inlet and the Kenai. It’s too late by then. By that time everybody is at each other’s throats when in reality everybody needs to be working together instead trying to make one group or another out to be bad. The king bycatch out at sea is huge. The salmon depravation and depletion due to predator fish (pike) and lack of food nutrients is huge. Everybody is pointing fingers at everybody and you are one of the ones accusing us of being the witches!
        Craig, I have submitted an ACR to the Board of Fish that will enable setnetters to target reds during times of low king returns after king fishing has been shut down and the east side setnet fishery has been closed. It will allow setnetters to fish flagged nets that will catch very few if any kings. I am trying to get something done. I also will say that if you ever want to contact me for info to verify your info on what you think is going on in the setnet fishery I will be happy to give you my take on it. You have my email.

      • Interesting comments, Russell. Most interesting in that a story sympathizing with someone’s plight is now described as spewing hate?

        If there was an IBH outbreak in Oklahoma caused by infected chicks, life dealt you a bad hand. I couldn’t find anybody reporting on anything like that, including Oklahoma farm and health agencies, but maybe I missed something. Send me a link. I am indeed curious.

        A bunch of small farmers in Oklahoma getting screwed by a big, global corporation isn’t really an Alaska story, but I am interested.

        As for the rest, thanks for confirming what you don’t know: “As for dippers catching kings and not releasing them I wouldn’t bring it up if I didn’t know of actual instances told to me by people that have witnessed it.” Told to you is what is called hearsay.

        The information is good as your normal bar gossip. But if you want to send along the names of the people who told you this, I’ll put in the time to run them down and find out the when and where of what they actually witnessed although in my experience this is often a waste of time that turns into a game of telephone: someone heard it from someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone, etc., etc. etc.

        And, in the end, there is often actually no one who saw anything. Your lack of experience in the information collection business is showing. But that’s neither here nor there.

        Send along the names and I’ll chase it down to see what happened.

        Could this have been a case of someone confusing a big pink salmon and a small Chinook? I witnessed a state wildlife trooper making that mistake with an oversize Southeast humpy decades ago. And there have been a lot of humpies the size of big sockeye caught in the dipnet fishery the last couple of years.

        The newby Southeas trooper was sure the black gumline and spots on both lobes of the tail said “king.” He obviously hadn’t been trained well. The tiny little scales were a giveaway from yards away.

        Lastly, it’s nice you’re paying off your debts, if you are paying off your debts. But why piss all over other poultry farmers claiming you are the only one doing so? It would have been better if you’d quit while ahead with the claim you were doing the honorable thing.

        I do like your thinking on constantly tended nets but the management reality is that nobody KNOWS what will “catch very few kings” because alternative fishing techniques have not been independently tested. Setnetter Gary Hollier did some testing on his own only to get ostracized by his fellow fishermen, and Kintama did some work – – only to be attacked by setnetters.

        It’s nice to say everyone should just get along, but that ignores the large fish-killing capabilities of a very small cohort of salmon fishermen, of which you are part; state constitutional requirements to manage all resources (not just sockeye) for maximum productivity; and, most importantly, the economic interests of the state as a whole

        I happen to believe commercial salmon fisheries in Cook Inlet are a good thing. The number of sockeye that escaped into the Kenai River this year is, in human terms, “wasteful,” though nature wastes nothing. Still, there is no biological need for so many sockeye in the river, and the monetary loss to the commercial fishery is significant.

        The capitalist in me hates to see that. A cleaner fishery would be good for everyone, but someone of your fellow setnetters have fought that for a long, long time. Facts are not a “bias.” They’re just facts. Sorry if they upset you, but that’s what facts sometimes do.

  4. Always appreciate your observations. That individual data would be useful. Thanks and let’s have coffee sometime soon.

  5. Once again Medred doesn’t tell the whole story. Why would he talk about the trawl fleet’s King Salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea eight hundred miles away and ignore the more relevant bycatch by trawlers right on the doorstep of the Kenai in the Gulf of Alaska?

    • Why? Because the situation best represents the bycatch tradeoffs in a place where most of the fish are of Alaska origin.

      The GOA catch, according to the genetics studies, is as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council reports “almost entirely composed of fish from Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest.”

      And given the poor production in SE at this time, it is probably nearly all B.C. and PNW fish. We might be at the point that the incidental catch of B.C. and PNW Chinook in our winter troll fisheries and as bycatch off the mouth of the Copper River is as high as the trawl bycatch of Kenai origin fish.

      Suffice to say, the GOA isn’t where Alaska interests pay the highest price. Thus the example of the BSAI.

  6. Dividing the baby . A loaded term .
    If I remember correctly king Solomon ended up giving the baby to the woman who cared the most and said give it to the other women after being confronted with a fatal division.
    I guess thats like being unable to agree how to preserve a resource until its destroyed. Selfishness rules some folks .
    I cant find a full count on cook inlet king fishing ocean charters or personal use . I would like to know how their numbers play in . A lot of ocean sport charter and personal use ocean boats target kings in cook inlet and really a wide bearth of Alaska waters . One of many charters south east has more than 10 boats in its fleet . A person i spoke to just got back from a king salmon oriented luxury yaht Seward charter filled with clients each taking at least one king . My memory said each person in his party of 5 had 3 kings each . Maybe i was mistaken but I think thats what he said . How carefully are these sport salt fisheries keeping tabs ? How many do they catch ? What ages ? Whats the total and impact? As in river king fishing has declined, salt water might be under pressure? Im out of loop to some degree but I know personally at least 5 groups who went king fishing in salt water . A person I know likes to take out of state groups on ninilchik / homer area charters . Im not saying commercial isn’t significantly responsible but is the whole picture looked at ? Personally I think it makes financial sense to allow more king salmon for personal use . Higher dollar value and appreciation of each fish when taken by individuals.

  7. Craig,
    I don’t understand your statement that individual fishermen are allowed to keep their harvest information secret. The uci drift fishery that I am involved with must report after each delivery number of chinook, sockeye, coho, pink and chum salmon that are harvested, including those kept for personal use. I assume the setnet fleet is held to the same standards. While this information understandably is not available to anybody for obvious reasons, it certainly is available to uci commercial and sportfish management.

    • I guess a person could equate giving comm fish the preferential treatment with an example of how it would work if moose harvesting was done commercially by mass harvesting methods and private hunters got last dibs if anything was left to hunt that year . Guessing there would be a lot of angry freezer owners! Or no moose left within a couple years. So maybe a revamp is in order. Just to be fair and preserve the resource.

    • You are probably correct Gunner. But what will never be available is the answer to the question of how many Chinook are killed when they drop out of the set nets and how many Chinook are harvested but go unreported.
      The Dept at one time calculated a mortality rate that occurred when Chinook were hooked and released by anglers. It has never developed a rate for when the fish drop out by of the nets dead or never reported. Yet everyone knows that this occurs. It seems to me that in an environment where every “ King” counts, that mortality from drop outs and Chinook harvest not being reported should be calculated and figured into total commercial harvest.

      • Valid point alaskans first. And it might be helpful to know how much of the saltwater sportfish harvest of chinook are bound for the kenai as well. As a commercial fisherman,I pay plenty to the state in license fees and landing taxes. Would gladly pay more if it would fund studies that just might help increase chinook escapements without allowing mllions of dollars of revenue in unharvested sockeye that are in excess of escapement goals

    • “Not available to anybody” defines secret. Do we let ARCO or Exxon keep secret from Alaskans how much oil and gas they pull out of the North Slope? Do we let Pogo or other mines keep secret the volume of minerals they have taken out of the ground?

      These are businesses harvesting common-property resources owned collectively by all Alaskans. Commercial fishermen are also businesses harvesting common-property resources owned collectively by all Alaskans.

      I’d love to know what your “obvious reasons” the fishing removals are kept secret.

      • It is not secret. The commercial harvest statistics are availailable to anybody. It is Iindividual harvest information that is not available to anyone. Some reasons for this might be to reduce competition in more productive areas,and not disclosing an individuals income. The managers of the fisheries have this info available to them .I dont have the right to demand the location of your favorite waterfowl spot, fishing hole, sheep drainage, and It certainly is no business of mine how much your income is.

      • It is if I’m killing far more than anyone else is allowed because the state has given me permission to sell what I shoot. Then, as with minerals, oil, gravel and all other state resources that get sold, the public has a right to know not only how many I’m taking but how much money I’m making.

        Why? Because these are resources owned by all Alaskans and all Alaskans have the right to know how much money is being made off them. The oil companies would love the deal commercial fishermen have. It would make it a lot easier for them to individual claim they’re not getting that much oil out of Alaska and nearly going broke here every time the issue of oil taxes comes up.

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