King research needs to focus on ocean issues

Is anyone wondering what the State of Alaska is spending that $30 million dollars on that our legislature allocated to discover why our king salmon are disappearing? Most people haven’t heard a peep as to where all that cash is going. If you don’t know where the money went how can you hold anyone accountable for it being spent wisely? Normally I would not have a problem going along with whatever solution the ADF&G comes up with regarding the kings but there is a serious lack of accountability within many ADF&G projects.

Right now our state is spending millions of tax dollars attempting to discover what is causing our king salmon runs to decline statewide. A $30 million dollar, five-year effort has been allocated by the state to study our declining wild king salmon runs. Unfortunately those funds are basically focusing on 12 statewide freshwater rivers, salmon enhancement, restoration, sampling, escapement, protection and genetic work. This state effort is basically focusing in on finding what may be wrong with our king salmon or their freshwater environment.

It took more ten years but eventually the ADF&G announced that our kings are being killed in the saltwater but they don’t know where and still refuse to believe that our fisheries management has had anything to do with the problem. I suppose it will take another ten years for them to finally admit they over hatchery stocked and harvested our fisheries along with misjudging our saltwater food web. The reason it will take so long to finally admit this is because we are currently spending our king salmon research funds under the incorrect assumption that our king problems are located within the freshwater. This incorrect assumption does not reflect our ADF&G saltwater finding. This incorrect freshwater assumption then leaves people believing that it may be possible to hatchery up millions of king salmon to fix the problem. If the problem is in the saltwater but everyone is looking in the freshwater, how do we find a solution? If our king problem rests within the way our saltwater commercial fisheries have been managed; how do we fix that management if we aren’t even looking at it? What if commercial fisheries mismanagement has altered our marine food web to the point of reducing a single critical element that our juvenile king salmon require to survive but we aren’t even looking in that area? The millions being spent to “fix our king runs” will not even ask these kind of questions thus our ADF&G cannot hope to generate a possible response.

I see few people expecting good news from our ADF&G with regard to our king salmon research. Our state funds are being used to study phantom freshwater issues, while most saltwater issues are ignored as our runs continue to decline. Enhancement, escapement, sampling, protection and genetic work may sound good on the surface but what if the problem is within the saltwater food web? If the problem is in the saltwater spending these funds in the freshwater is like slamming the barn door after the horse has run off.

Dumping more hatchery kings into the ocean may sound good but what if there is little to nothing for those kings to feed on? Counting kings, studying genetics or protecting kings may sound good but what if there aren’t any kings returning to count, study or protect? Our kings may eventually die in the freshwater but they are being killed in the saltwater. We don’t need to study the ashes of our once great king runs; we need to be studying the saltwater locations and environments that are killing our kings.