NEWS: Ruling Endangers Wild Kenai River Kings, Rainbows and Dollies: Rep. Gara Files Formal Request for Reconsideration

Rep. Les Gara fishing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2015

JUNEAU – Today, Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) filed a formal request for a reversal of a ruling by the Federal Subsistence Board that will threaten Alaska’s world class wild King Salmon, Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden. Prized early and late run wild King Salmon have been decimated in recent years. Early run Kenai River King runs have fallen from over 20,012 fish in 1988 to roughly 2,049 in 2013. Late run Kenai Kings have fallen from 81,700 in 1988 to 19,700 in 2013.

“We should help this run recover, not further decimate it with a 60-foot in-river gillnet that would be allowed to stretch up to halfway across the Kenai River,” said Rep. Gara.

The world record King Salmon was caught in the Kenai River in 1985 by Lester Anderson. The massive fish weighed in at 97 pounds and four ounces. 

Last week, the Federal Subsistence Board approved a proposal allowing a 60-foot gillnet to be stretched up to halfway across the Kenai River. This new net could negatively impact King Salmon spawning areas and world-class Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden populations. The proposal allows the taking of Sockeye Salmon, King Salmon, Rainbows, and Dollies. However, in fishing for Sockeyes, gillnetters will intercept and kill significant numbers of incidentally caught Kings, Rainbows and Dollies.

“This decision should be withdrawn, or rewritten so that subsistence Sockeye Salmon can be taken in a manner that does not harm some of the largest and most prized Kings, Rainbows and Dollies in the world,” said Rep. Gara. “The proposal should also not diminish the fair access to Sockeye fishing by sport, personal use and commercial fishermen.” 

Currently, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game allows the Ninilchik applicants a special subsistence educational permit to take up to 5,800 Sockeye Salmon from Cook Inlet. Residents and members of the Ninilchik Tribal Council are also allowed, like all Alaskans, to dipnet up to 35 Kenai River Sockeye, and an additional 10 for each family member. 

“Enhancing those Sockeye Salmon opportunities, if they are inadequate for Ninilchik resident’s needs, would be a sounder option because these fisheries are designed to minimize the interception of Kings, and are located in a part of the Lower Kenai River with relatively minor Rainbow and Dolly populations,” said Rep. Gara. “Residents on the Kenai Peninsula are located near significant job centers, groceries and ample sport, personal use and subsistence fishery locations. Adding a large kill of wild Kings, Rainbows and Dollies, as proposed, is far from necessary.”

The Federal Subsistence Board is accepting reconsideration requests on the ruling. Contact Rep. Gara’s office for the technical rules on filing a reconsideration request.

Rep. Gara is encouraging Legislators and the public to share their views by email and through social media. 

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