King Salmon Conservation Rally Aims For Total Closure

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by Russ Slaten

Original Air Date: July 9, 2012

The Kenai River Professional Guide Association held a king salmon conservation rally at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office today in Soldotna.

About 80 people, mostly professional guides and sport fishermen along with a few commercial fishermen, showed up to address the low number of king salmon returning to the spawning grounds of the Kenai River.

Sport fishing is currently open for no-bait, catch and release, while allowing harvest of larger kings.

Many Kenai guides and sport fishermen say they are willing to sacrifice the fishing season in order to conserve the number of kings for years to come.

"We need to think conservatively. All user groups are in this, so if we can all work together to come up with getting more fish into the river, then we'll all be better off," said David Goggia, president of the Kenai River Professional Guide Association.

Fish and Game numbers showed about 650 king salmon passing through to the Kenai River through July 6th.

This year's minimum escapement goal, in order to produce a sustainable run for the next year, is 17,500 kings.

Greg Brush, a long-time Kenai River guide, said a proactive, not reactive, stance should be taken in order to conserve king salmon for future runs.

"Why don't we start off very conservative from the get-go, and then when we have an abundance, after we've met our escapement goal, then we can harvest. It would be the same as managing your household. You don't go out to dinner five nights in a row at the first of the month and then say, uh oh, we don't have enough money to pay our bills," said Brush.

An out of state sport fisherman, David Burk of Texas, attended the rally, saying king salmon is a resource to be cherished and should be protected with more passion.

"You gotta go to the top, you gotta write your letters, you gotta get this done, because I want my son, when his 18-year-old son graduates, my grandson, I wanna be able to say, hey, let me take you to the biggest King Salmon in the world. Let's go to the Kenai and let's spend a few more thousand dollars to catch a king," said Burk.

King salmon conservation has been an issue between sport and commercial fishermen for decades, but Commercial Fisherman Travis Every said commercial harvest has always been targeted for red salmon.

Even with the possibility of over-escapement of reds, he says he realizes the necessity to sacrifice for the whole.

The Department of Fish and Game closed setnet fishing for commercial fishermen in order to address a lack of red salmon, but have not sent any orders for complete closure.

Salmon is a renewable resource, sometimes it needs time to renew.

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