August 15th, 2012

Think About It…


I’m not here to tell you how to think about the fishing closures. The title of this segment is all about you, the listener, thinking about the issue. I’m here to tell you what I saw at each of the rallies I’ve been to, the story behind the stories on the news.


The first rally I attended was at the Department of Fish and Game office, with the sports fishermen. There was a crowd of around one or two hundred, mostly men dressed in outdoors-wear, nice camo jackets and hoodies. These men dressed as fishermen, and they spoke as fishermen, talking about the King Salmon and the nobility of the species. They were genuine about wanting to save the species, they were very kind to talk to, and the theme I heard over and over was: “We’ve all got to be in this together to save the Kings. Everybody needs to be shut down, equally, so the King can recover.”


I actually thought the rally was a set net rally in the beginning, so I was looking for a Kenai resident. I sincerely tried, but my best efforts led only to conversations with lovely men from Oregon, Florida and Texas.


The man who really got my attention at this rally, was a tourist who had spent $10,000 to bring his son and friends up to catch one of the great Kenai Kings. He wanted to see that opportunity still available to his children’s children.


Now consider the set net rallies of the past few days. What surprised this reporter most was that sitting in the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association building, I felt like I was at a pot luck, watching people bringing one another snacks, kids moving around, women, white hairs, and many young people. Some were obviously fishermen, but many others could have been on their way to do groceries or a movie. They talked about their home and their livelihood, their way of life.


They talked about the investment they have made in thePeninsula, including the finances they have sown into their fishing operations, but not limited to that. These people had built their homes and families as well as their businesses on the back of salmon fishing.


Here is what I saw, and what I’d like you to consider: there is a difference between an investment and a purchase. One continues to give, year after year, and it requires the investor to keep watch over the situation and ensure there will be a future. On the other hand, a purchase is here today and put on the shelf tomorrow.


In this case, set netters have been making an investment in thisPeninsulafor close to 100 years. Sports fishing, though, is dominated by tourism, and comes from a different angle. They are not the past of thePeninsula, but they have become its present and quite possibly its future. They bring money to the state and with that money, they essentially buy a fishing experience. But who are they buying it from? Not the guide, he doesn’t supply the fish, he supplies his time and expertise. The fish are coming from somewhere or someone else. 


And when you compare the amount of time set net fishermen are allowed to fish now, to what it was in decades past, there is an evident downward trend; honestly, the sports fishermen are buying their fish from the set-netters – although the set-netters aren’t being paid anything for them.


This is a question that’s pretty fundamental across the country right now, not just with regard to fishing, but the American way of life in general… do we want to go back to the foundation, the original way of living – when people lived and died, prospered or fell into poverty based on their own choices – or do we want to try something new and rewrite some of those rules?


In both arenas, we’ve been trying something new for about the past 50 years. Regarding the salmon, the bulk of the fishing has been moving away from commercial fishermen and towards sports fishermen and dip netters. Regarding our way life, coincidentally, people have started moving away from traditional roles and stepping into a radical new future. What’s been happening during that time? Where are we now, with those changes in our history?


So, the title of this segment says it all: the current contest between our foundations and our inclination towards a new kind of future is worth considering. Over to you. I’ll leave you with this: evaluate the tree by the fruit it produces before you decide which one you want to eat from.


Think about it.


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