Formation of the Kenai River Fisherman’s Coalition
The Kenai River Fisherman’s Coalition was created by a group of retired fishery professionals and area fisherman with three guiding principles;
- Ensure sound science is used to make management decisions,
- Conservation of fish and habitat takes priority over allocative concerns,
- Give private anglers a voice in fisheries management.
Currently the Board of Directors is composed of 10 retired fishery professionals and six area fishermen. As interest and enthusiasm within the community grew we included a general membership. We now have over 150 members and growing.
Identified a conflict of interest for Alaska Board of Fisheries members attending the Kenai River Classic
We requested an ethical determination from the Attorney General regarding possible conflicts of interest when State Officials and/or Board of Fisheries members participate in the Kenai River Classic. Ethical conflicts were identified. Board members were instructed not to attend in 2007 or any year where the Classics sponsors (Kenai River Sport Fishing Association) had regulatory proposals submitted to the Board of Fisheries. Department employees were warned that attendance should be at their own expense during off duty hours. We believe these determinations helped ‘level the playing field’ for private anglers during Board of Fisheries meetings.
Identified negative consequences of the Kenai River Classic
We purchased an advertisement in the Peninsula Clarion questioning the Kenai River Classic’s benefit to the community. We argued some of the money’s generated by this event have been used to lobby for regulations and management decisions that negatively affected many Kenai River user groups. This message resonated within the community and added many new members to our organization.
Identified unfair allocation and improper use of Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery funds
We questioned the allocation of Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery funds, specifically earmarks directed toward the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association. We prevailed and a new system of allocating funds is in place. We also questioned the use of Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Funds to build a boardwalk through a cultural site at Slikok Creek. We prevailed and work was halted.
Commented on Kenai River hydrocarbon regulations on behalf of local anglers
We supported the classification of the Kenai River as an impaired water body due and participated in shaping the regulatory solution. We felt the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) regulatory proposal was flawed because it unnecessarily restricted two-stroke owners while allowing four-stroke owners increased emissions. We participated in the public process through letter writing, public testimony, public and private meetings with agency staff to correct these biases. We successfully negotiated a five-year window for 2-stroke motors use, August through June, rather than two as originally proposed. This compromise does nothing to threaten the Kenai’s water quality (hydrocarbon violations have never been recorded outside of July) yet gives fishermen a reasonable timeframe to plan their clean motor purchase. While other sport fishing interests used the hydrocarbon pollution problem as a Trojan horse for horsepower liberalization, we stood alone as a compassionate voice for non-commercial users.
We also participated in the Tri-City/Borough meetings regarding 2-stroke motor restrictions in the personal use fishery. We helped negotiate wording in their resolution that restricted personal-use fishery participants only, thus protected people using the lower Kenai River for other purposes.
Board of Fisheries
We submitted several sport fishery proposals to the Board of Fisheries and commented on relevant sport and commercial fishery proposals. Several of our members participated in public testimony and three of our Board of Directors sat on board committees. With regard to sockeye salmon management we were successful because the Board prioritized satisfying escapement goals over allocative criteria. We were less successful with regard to our sport fishery proposals. Through a combined effort with KRSA and KRPGA we succeeded in closing tributary confluences to Chinook salmon fishing through the end of July to further protection for Chinook salmon spawning in those areas. We also succeeded in liberalizing harvest on early-run, age-1.2, Chinook salmon (28 inches and under) in the Kenai River.We were less successful on other sport proposals including additional Kenai River drift boat days and Kenai River guide restrictions. We hope to grow our membership which should force the Board of Fisheries to take these proposals more seriously in the future.
Board and committee appointments
As our organization gained respect amongst state and federal agencies we gained several board and committee appointments.
- A member of our Board of Directors sits on the Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee.
- A member of our Board of Directors sits on the Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA) Advisory Board.
- Our members serve on the Habitat and Recreational Use committees to the KRSMA Advisory Board.
- We have membership in the Fish Habitat Organization (USFWS program) which is a partnership of several resource oriented agencies and organizations on the Kenai Peninsula.
- We have a seat on the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association Board of Directors.
Inform, Educate and represent local fisherman on miscellaneous fishery issues
- We testified before the Kenai Peninsula Borough on developing road standards for salmon streams.
- We wrote a letter to DNR recommending more efficient use their boat launches during high season (reserve parking spaces for vehicles with trailers only).
- We wrote a letter to DNR recommending the use of incentives (2-3 free boat launch passes) to promote public participation in boater safety courses.
- We wrote numerous letters to the Clarion and Anchorage Daily News on issues impacting the Kenai River and fisheries management issues.
- We have provided scientific input on a number of technical issues. Examples include the Susitna River sockeye salmon research, Kenai River sockeye salmon research, Genetic stock identification of sockeye salmon harvested in the commercial fishery, two-ocean Kenai River Chinook salmon harvest, the Anchor River sustainable escapement goal, and Kenai River habitat issues.