Following a vote from the Alaska State Legislature, $175,000 have been added to the state’s wildlife trooper service. The funds were immediately allocated to bring in six additional troopers to supplement the 13 already stationed at Soldotna, with two spots still unfilled as the state struggles to enforce fishing violations that may impact the already precarious position of king salmon populations.
The Kenai River, the biggest king salmon fishing hot spot in the world, and the Yukon River, the state’s most important body of water for supporting the livelihood of career fishermen, have taken huge hits to their king populations over the last five years, prompting a moratorium from the state on fishing the species until wildlife officials can implement a plan that actually works to help it recover.
Wildlife Troopers, Fisheries Struggle to Maintain Eco-Conscious Fishing
Since fisheries opened their waters to the public on July 10, wildlife troopers have already administered upwards of 30 citations. For the most part, the tickets were given to fishermen who were either caught violating fisheries’ hours or for failing to properly mark their catches and record them after bringing them in. Maintaining strict rules around both is essential to conservation efforts that depend on playing the numbers game.
Bob Standish, owner of Bob’s Cabin & Guide Service on the Kenai River hopes the legislature will double the amount of the funds for next year. Standish said, “I have not seen a wildlife trooper actually out on the Kenai river in a boat in 15 years. More effective law enforcement is badly needed to enforce the regulations on the Kenai River, as well as enforce regulations on the commercial set netters in this area.” Standish also explained that the Alaska Fish & Game Department should have closed the Kenai River in July to all fishing of King Salmon and also closed the commercial set netters to prevent the indiscriminate killing of King Salmon in their nets. The Department is finally closing all King Salmon fishing on the Kenai River effective July 26th. Standish states, “this is too little, far too late.”
Fisheries all over the state, particularly those in Cook Inlet, are struggling to find ways to meet demand for sockeye salmon — a crop that sustains many people — without placing weakening king populations in harm’s way. To that end, bans on fishing using bait in many major waterways remain in effect. As you might imagine, no one is allowed to keep any king they pull up, accidentally or not. Whether or not fisheries’ efforts allowing dip-netting for sockeye while avoiding more damaging methods to the king species will have any effect remains to be seen. Needless to say, Alaskans, particularly the fishermen, are keeping their fingers crossed.