Friday, January 30, 2009

A Not-So-Modest Proposal: Aerial Hunting of Commercial Fishermen

Overview of Relationships Between Commercial Fishermen, The Sport Fishing Industry, Dip-Netters, Mat-Su Politicians, and Salmon in Cook Inlet, Alaska

Relationships between large predators and their prey in Alaska are complex; it is possible to generalize about some situations, particularly in Cook Inlet. This information on the biology of salmon and the impact of commercial fishermen and the sport fishing industry represents highlights from 25 years of research and management programs. The recent introduction of dip-netters and politicians from the Mat-Su borough now is beginning to play a major role in allocation decisions.

In the coastal fisheries of Canada and Alaska, where commercial fishermen (either set netters or the drift fleet) are major predators of salmon, salmon returns typically remain well below levels that wealthy and influential individuals and wasteful personal use dip-netters would like to see. This occurs primarily because, together, set and drift fishermen, are efficient predators on salmon stocks, and kill many of the returning fish.

Commercial fishermen have been found to be very adaptable and within a few years, they recover from times of low fish returns. Despite relatively heavy regulation and operating costs over the last century in Alaska, commercial fishermen occur in nearly their entire traditional habitat throughout Cook Inlet.

Commercial fishermen are social animals that often live in large family groups. Depending upon the relationship of adult males and females, multiple births of potential commercial fishermen may occur. Most children born into a commercial fishing family themselves become commercial fishermen – especially in areas where salmon returns are abundant.

A solution to this problem can be found in Game Management Unit 20A where wolf control has been shown to be effective at maintaining high numbers of moose and high long-term harvests of moose. In Unit 20A, reduction of wolves by the introduction of aerial hunting has increased moose population density.

Based on this data, biologists expect that significant reductions in commercial fishermen (either drift or set net or both) will also lead to higher numbers of salmon for harvest.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, with the full support of Governor Sarah Palin has announced the introduction of aerial hunting of Cook Inlet commercial fisherman.

State officials stand by their scientific findings on predator control. "Several times over the past several years, our science has been challenged in court," says Bruce Bartley, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "In every instance it has prevailed. If shooting wolves from airplanes works, we expect similar results with shooting commercial fishermen.”

In 2007, Palin approved $400,000 to educate the public about the ecological success of shooting wolves and bears from the air. Some of the money went to create a pamphlet distributed in local newspapers, three weeks before the public was to vote on an initiative that would have curtailed aerial killing of wolves by private citizens. In her current fiscal-year budget, Palin included another $400,000 for a similar pamphlet defending the culling of commercial fishermen. Last year she introduced state legislation that would transfer authority over the program from the state Department of Fish and Game to Alaska's Board of Game, whose members are appointed by Palin.

Palin defended her actions: "Well, let's see. There's ― of course in the great history of Alaska there have been rulings that there's never going to be absolute consensus by every Alaskan, and there are those issues, again, the aerial hunting of commercial fishermen, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So, you know, going through the history of Alaska, there would be others. But our next-door neighbor is Cook Inlet. As commercial fishermen rear their nets into the water space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right there. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on these very powerful predators. I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open airplane window for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the shot. Show me where the open shot is. Even if it's just cracked open a little bit, maybe I'll shoot through that and maybe prematurely pull the trigger through it, but don't let me miss a shot."

Bob Penney, co-founder and a current board member of the nonprofit Kenai River Sport Fishing Association has pledged part of the $4.7 million Congressional earmark his organization received from the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (Thanks Uncle Ted!) to promote aerial commercial fishermen hunting. He has proposed expanding the annual Kenai River Classic, a yearly sport fishing event comprising of some the most influential politicians, lobbyists and policy-makers to include a chance to participate in the aerial hunting.

Penny explained his position: “We tried to get the state to buy back commercial fishing permits, but the program would have been expensive and there was no guarantee that commercial fishermen would go along with it. Aerial hunting of commercial fishermen wouldn’t cost the state much money. Plenty of my rich friends would gladly pay for the opportunity to gun down these fish-killing predators. In fact, I’d be happy to offer a bounty for each commercial fisherman shot.

Mat-Su Assembly member Tom Kluberton chairs the Mat-Su Mayor's Blue Ribbon Sportsmen's Committee. "If this is not addressed before fishing season, the commercial fleet may reduce the number of fish escaping into the Susitna drainage to a level that will be devastating to Mat-Su families who rely on salmon for their table and to the guiding and fishing-related tourism industries in the area as well," Kluberton said.

Mat-Su Borough Manager John Duffy is making a plea for relief to state officials.

"We believe that any time the drift fleet is allowed to fish south of the Blanchard Line, the fish bound for the northern district get intercepted," Duffy said. "It would be more prudent to first allow the northern district residents to reach its escapement goals by shooting commercial fishermen."

Ricky Gease, executive director of KRSA, in an e-mail to the fish board claimed that security was an issue and that the board should consider meeting in Anchorage instead of Soldotna when they consider approving aerial hunting of commercial fishermen.

Mr. Gease stated, "At the 2000 meeting in Soldotna, members of the BOF, employees of ADF&G, and numerous members of the general public were threatened with acts of violence, some stretching to death threats ... the fact that the physical security of the public became an issue at this meeting shows that security was not adequately factored into the decision making process prior to the meeting ... Several members of our organization who live outside Soldotna question whether or not their physical security can be guaranteed if the meeting once again happens in Soldotna. We’d better pass this policy and get them before they get us."


Anonymous said...

You need to bone up a little on Swift, cause this piss of a shot isn't up to Jonathon's standards.

Funny how Bob Penney and the Kenai River Classic are listed under the bad, and the Kenai Watershed Forum and the Triumvirate Theatre are listed under the good. Yet funds raised at the Kenai River Classic are used to support the operations of both these organizations, and Penney rents space to the Triumvirate Theatre at a reduced rate.

And I was there at the meeting Gease refers to, and it wasn't personal use dip netters or anglers threatening members of the Board of Fisheries, it was commercial fishermen, and they were escorted out that meeting by cops.

Oh, by the way, wasn't that Steve Tvenstrup, CHAIR OF UCIDA the Drifters Association, who was escorted out of the state capitol by cops last year after acting in a threatening and violent manner?

Oh, by the way, wasn't it Brent Johnson, CHAIR OF KPFA - the setnetters association, who said in a letter to the governor last year he feels like a poor, innocent, raped black child seeking justice in front of an all white male jury in some misbegotten time in the Deep South every time he appears in front of the Board of Fisheries, because it is contaminated with non-commercial fishermen?

Relabel your blog SOB - blank for brains.

souldotna said...

Whoa, Dude – did we hit a nerve?

So, since Al Capone gave lots of dough to orphanages, does that make him a saint? If Penney donated to Mother Theresa, does that wipe out some of the shadier influence peddling he’s been involved in?

And Dude, your attitude – it has as much hate as you say those pesky commercial fishermen had at the meeting in question. Is it only all right if YOU get pissed?

Hmmm…the piece was comedy. You know - Har Har Har. Maybe you should get your doc to up your dosage. But good for you that you know whom JS was.

Chill out, Bro…go bowling or something…


Anonymous said...

Dude, you are so funny.

I re-read it the second time and I get it now - you are dip sh!t - I see it now like a new pair of 20 / 40 prescription glasses.

Oh lily white lily puttin. Here Kitty kitty kitty.

Rahor, got my claws out.

Easy tiger, piglet will be home soon.

Oh my, what prescription do they have me on now?

If only Coleridge were alive today, we could play poetry tag with each other on real prescription drugs.

Oops, gotta go take me ADHD meds.

See ya, can't be ya without a sex change.

Anonymous said...
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