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Board of Fish Addresses Kenai King Management Concerns

October 05, 2011|by Jackie Bartz | Channel 2 News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Board of Fish unanimously voted down an agenda request change by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association at an Anchorage meeting Wednesday. If approved it would have allowed the board to take up king salmon management out of cycle.

KRSA wanted the board to address various aspects of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's management plan for Kenai River late-run king salmon, saying the state did a poor job of management this past year.  

"Despite it not being passed, I think a very fruitful discussion happened between the Board of Fish and department in terms of late run Kenai River king salmon," Rick Gease, executive director of KRSA, said during an interview.

The Kenai River has seen runs well below its nine-year average for the past three years.  

In August, Fish and Game opened up a 56-hour window for the setnet fleet, in order to help mop of a large sockeye salmon run. KRSA criticized the opening, saying it could put the state in jeopardy of not meeting the escapement goal for kings.

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Several hours into the fishery, an emergency order closed the setnet season citing concerns over the kings, and that managers had determined the setnet harvest would fall below 1 percent of the season harvest for the second day in a row.   

"It was the probably fifth-largest sockeye harvest we had ever had," said Robert Williams, President of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen Association, a group that represents setnet fishermen, said. "Commercial fishermen, that is what we live, for because a lot of years we break even."

The setnet fleet also considers conservation when it comes to its fishing. According to Williams, the fleet didn't fish about 50 percent of the time it was allowed to, in order to conserve kings.  

At Wednesday's meeting, managers acknowledged that predicting the run is difficult for a variety of reasons. The department is working on a transition from its current sonar system to a Didson sonar system. Biologists said this was the first year they tested Didson on two banks, but said it's not ready to implement for a couple years, but say the new system will make counting easier and more effective.  

Contact Jackie Bartz at jbartz@ktuu.com

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