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Debate Over Kenai River Management Continues

By Dan Carpenter, Oil, Gas, Native Issues, Corporations and Subsistence Multimedia Reporter, dcarpenter@ktuu.com
Published On: Feb 04 2014 07:44:14 PM AKST
Updated On: Feb 04 2014 07:46:47 PM AKST

Debate Over Kenai River Management Continues

ANCHORAGE -

The debate over how to best manage king salmon in the Kenai River continued Tuesday as rules are being drafted for the coming fishing season.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is hearing from all user groups in the Upper Cook Inlet, including sport and commercial fisherman, before voting on more than 200 proposals.

On Tuesday morning the board voted to keep last year's escapement goals for late run king salmon on the Kenai River.

For years the fish have been at historic lows, prompting closures and restrictions.

A range of 15,000 to 20,000 kings passing sonar counters is the number the state considers acceptable to sustain the fish in the future.

Sport fishermen and commercial setnetters are largely at odds over acceptable numbers that also sustain local economies.

“We still feel that a goal higher than 15-30 need to be the goal for the long term, but we recognize that we're at an extremely difficult situation for 2014,” said Kenai River Sport Fishing Association consultant Kevin Delaney.

The board had voted to raise the limit Monday, but changed their vote Tuesday.

“I guess I'm thankful it was reconsidered. It's a long battle here, and there are probably a lot of issues,” said East Side Set Netter Brent Johnson.

The current escapement range for early run kings on the Kenai River is between 5,300 and 9,000 fish.

The board is expected to take up that issue as part of the Management Plan for the River on Wednesday.