Voices of the Peninsula: Solving fishery issues requires honest dialogue

  • By Robert Ruffner
  • Thursday, January 1, 2015 5:28pm
  • Opinion

The iconic Alaska king salmon are returning in lesser number, younger and consequently smaller, and with a skewed gender ratio across most of our state.

How should we react? What does it say about how we react to an issue where passions and emotions run high? The recent op-ed from Joe Connors is very disappointing and everyone in our community needs to know why and to know we can and should do better than this.

One of the worst things that can happen when a legitimate concern — be it environmental, social or otherwise — comes into the view of the more casual, wider public audience is for one viewpoint to take the concern and manipulate it to their individual benefit and to the detriment of a legitimate contribution to problem solving.

Calling for the permanent banning of setnets and sticking an environmental cause and effect label on it is categorically false. Millions of dollars are being spent to understand what the underlying environmental conditions are that have led to the current period of low chinook productivity and there are some very good hypothesis that are being evaluated. The majority of the salmon fishing community is experiencing economic pain and inconvenience through restrictions on all methods and gear types that catch chinook. When these restrictions are enacted in proportion to each methods catching power we have the right management strategy and it should be supported when it occurs. By and large, the yearly and in-season management decisions have been appropriate.

Having dealt with environmental issues on and around the Kenai River as a full-time gig for most of the past two decades, I am both pro-sport and pro-commercial, and recognize both as having an important place in our community.

For me personally it has always been challenging to choose when to weigh in on a controversial issue, particularly when it might be seen a pitting one group against another, and this one needs a response.

So to be clear, since Mr. Connors and the organizations he is representing have turned their back on a legitimate concern and on our community, I encourage everyone to return the favor and hope those that care about the fish will just be honest in what they are trying to accomplish and not continue on with the lies.

Robert Ruffner is executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum.

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