State Senator Bill Wielechowski Anchorage is calling upon Governor Sean Parnell and Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell to extend the Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery for at least one week to give families throughout Southcentral Alaska more opportunity to harvest fish for the year ahead.
The Anchorage Democrat said that it’s been a dismal year for Alaskans who rely on the Kenai personal use fishery to fill their freezers, claiming that tens of thousands of Alaskans traveled to the Kenai with their dipnets and came back with almost nothing to show for it.
In Wielechowski’s mind they’re angry and frustrated, and he says rightly so.
The fishery began July 10 and is scheduled to close tonight at midnight. About 33,000 permits are issued annually for the fishery. Last year about half a million sockeye were harvested. The harvest this year is not known yet, but some Alaskans expect it will be far lower.
Wielechowski noted that in 2006, the Commissioner of Fish and Game extended the fishery when the run was late and many Alaskans didn’t get the fish they need, he says the same thing needs to happen this year.”
Wielechowski noted that roughly 35 percent of this year’s sockeye run surged up the river over three days mid-week, when most Alaskans were busy working, leaving weekend fishermen empty-handed. It also appears, based on historical trends, that a second large wave of sockeye have not yet made it to the Kenai River. Based on sonar counts of more than 1.2 million fish, the biological escapement goal set by Fish and Game has already been met, meaning there are excess fish to harvest.
There are plenty of fish left for all Alaskans to share, according to Wielechowski . There have been numerous emergency openers for the commercial fleet to help manage the escapement levels, and as a matter of fairness and biological necessity, Wielechowski says the Parnell Administration should take immediate action to ensure that ALL Alaskans who simply want fish to eat get their fair share.