Fish and Game closes part of the Upper Cook Inlet to gillnet fishing

Fish and Game closes part of the Upper Cook Inlet to gillnet fishing
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 9:19 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed all set gillnet fishing in the Kenai, Kasilof, and East Forelands sections of Upper Cook Inlet after low counts of large king salmon passages.

This is the third year in a row that the department has closed this fishery, with Ken Coleman saying it’s becoming a strain on some of those who set gillnets for a living.

“We watch the fish jump by, watch everybody else having a good time doing what they do and we’re all losing money,” Coleman said.

This closure impacts businesses collectively as it’s a chain reaction effect across the area.

“All those things that we use as tools, buy groceries, fuel, all those things are part of our business and those industries don’t then have any income from us which is irreplaceable. This is a very difficult situation,” Coleman said.

The Kenai River late-run king management plan, used by Fish and Game, states that if the projected late-run large king salmon escapement is less than 15,000 fish, the department will close the commercial set gillnet fishery in the upper subdistrict.

According to Fish and Game, as of July 15, the Kenai River late-run large king salmon passage was estimated to be at 2,352 fish. The projected final escapement is less than 15,000 fish.

“We’re trying to find ways to make it work, and we’re hoping that the commissioner of Fish and Game will find a way or go outside the management plan to allow for some limited harvests.”

The department said projections show escapement numbers remaining well below their respective minimums, for its season management objectives.

Adding that it doesn’t look like the late-run large king salmon will reach acceptable levels without significant restrictions on all the fisheries that harvest this stock.

Fish and Game said if the abundance of king salmon improves, the fisheries can reopen.

But Brian Marston, who is with the department and checks on the escapement counts at least once a day, said it doesn’t look like it will be opening anytime soon.

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