The fish wars on the Kenai Peninsula rage on, with the sport fishing industry taking steps to prevent more commercial fishing in August.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries has called another emergency meeting on Wednesday morning, to hear several Cook Inlet proposals.
One proposal from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association asks the board to shut down the East Side setnetter fishery through the middle of August.
The setnetters have had only one commercial opening this season, to conserve king salmon which are running at some of the lowest numbers ever.
Although the setnetters fish for sockeyes, which are running strong this year, their nets also catch a percentage of the endangered king salmon, or chinooks.
State fishery managers say another 20 percent of the king run moves into the Kenai River during August. They can reopen the setnet fishery on August 1st, but are still reviewing the data. So for the time being the setnetters remain on hold.
About 18,000 kings are needed to reach their spawning grounds to insure future returns. But so far, by Fish and Game's count, only about two thirds of that goal has been met.
Bob Penney, a long time sport fishery advocate, says this is a year where every king counts, and setnets should stay out of the water.
"They're going to kill kings, when they go into the water. The run is in such peril, nobody should fish," said Bob Penney.
Setnetters have questioned Fish and Game's numbers, because of its transition to a new sonar system. Many believe the new system has undercounted the king run.
One veteran Cook Inlet research biologist, Ken Tarbox, says they could be right -- and says it's premature for the sport fishing industry to call for an end to the commercial setnet fishery this season.
"The setnet fishery is a hundred-year fishery and tradition," says Tarbox. "You don't just ask somebody to step aside, because you want to have recreation on chinook salmon. In my mind, that isn't responsible."
Tarbox, who is now retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, says he understands how difficult it's been for its staff this season, trying to balance the management of two species of salmon in a time when there are no easy choices.
Tarbox is calling for an independent review of the state's management of the Cook Inlet fishery this season. He hopes it will point to solutions, because the king salmon runs are not expected to recover in the near future.
The Board of Fisheries meets via teleconference on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.. There will be no public testimony taken. People can listen in at legislative information offices. The teleconference is also streamed live on the Fish and Game website.
Link to ADF&G Board of Fisheries web page: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=boardsactions.main