Gillnets in the Kenai River don’t make sense

As reported in the Peninsula Clarion the Federal Subsistence Board recently voted to allow subsistence gillnetting on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. Even after hearing this bit of common sense from fisheries biologist Robert Begich they still voted to allow gillnetting on the rivers: “Those fish are all in different stages of pre- and post-spawning and when you put a gillnet in the water up there, you’re going to catch everything,” he said. “It’s a non-selective gear type so you’re going to be catching spawning-colored reds that you’re not going to want to catch, pinks, spawning-colored kings, everything.”

There are three citizen members on the Federal Subsistence Board, all three voted to allow gillnets in rivers near my home. They are from Unalakleet, Hydaburg, and Barrow respectively. I would not want to see the irresponsible use of resources in their communities and they should not be able to grant permission for the irresponsible use of resources in mine.

Hydaburg mayor Tony Christianson showed his glaring lack of foresight with this quote: “We only have the one thing to look after, and it’s the interests of the subsistence community,” he said. “I’m here to fight for the people. I’m here to look after their needs, and their need is food, not money.” I wonder if Tony unplugs his freezer after pulling out a package of frozen fish? I don’t imagine he does, that would be a waste of fish. So why would he approve a practice that will result in the bycatch of untargeted species and no doubt wanton waste of the targeted species (sockeye salmon).

Throw a 60 foot gillnet in the Kenai River during the peak of the run and you are going to load up with reds very quickly. You can bet some of those fish will be wasted. Then there are the king salmon. Do these people even care about trying to protect the kings?

Years ago a professional athlete was complaining about a 12 million dollar contract. He said, “Hey, I have to feed my family.” A sports writer said that “If you are making that kind of money and can’t feed your family it is because you don’t have the ability to find the grocery store.” We have a similar situation here. Christianson says that is all about food, as if this user group is not going to be able to get enough fish if they can’t use a gillnet. If you can’t get enough fish now with all the options available, it is not about needing more options to catch fish it is that you have no ability to fish.

Matt Miller, Fish and Game Regional Fisheries Management Coordinator for Southcentral Cook Inlet really sums up how ridiculous this action is: “It’s a non-selective gear type in an era of conservation. If you don’t say no to gillnets on the Kenai, what will you say no to?”

Will Rogers said “Common sense ain’t common.” That was in the 40’s, it appears common sense is even less common now!