Anchorage AK – In an effort to conserve the Kenai River king salmon population for future generations of Alaskans, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is closing sport fishing for king salmon on the Kenai River and in marine waters of Cook Inlet north of Bluff Point and is closing all commercial set net fisheries on the east side of Upper Cook Inlet effective 12:01am, Friday, July 24th, 2020. This action is in accordance with management plans approved by the Alaska Board of Fisheries this past spring aimed at rebuilding this iconic king salmon run.
“Alaska has led the salmon producing provinces by example when it comes to sustainable management of our salmon populations. Most often, that our active management has produced abundance and consequential increased harvest upon which our economy has capitalized and thrived.
Unfortunately, we are not projecting to meet the minimum escapement goal for late run Kenai River king salmon and now sustainable management mandates that we act just as decisively to conserve this great resource. We understand that our actions comes with a great cost and hardship to many individuals and businesses, but we have to take these actions to ensure fishing opportunities for future generations of Alaskans in all associated industries,” said ADF&G Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang. “The Kenai River king salmon are experiencing an extended period of low productivity and restricting the fisheries is necessary to ensure their sustainability.”
ADF&G manages Kenai River late-run king salmon under regulations prescribed in the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan adopted by the Alaska Board of Fisheries last year to ensure adequate escapement of late-run king salmon into the Kenai River system. The optimal escapement goal (OEG) for late-run king salmon is 15,000 to 30,000 large king salmon (75 cm mid eye to tail fork and longer). Through July 21, 2020, approximately 4,520 large king salmon have passed the river mile 13.7 king salmon sonar, the midpoint of the late run is historically around July 26. In season projections for 2020 estimate an escapement of approximately 12,700 large king salmon under the current management strategy. Without further restrictions to harvest and effort, the OEG for Kenai River late-run king salmon is not expected to be achieved.
As specified in the management plan, if the projected late run escapement is less than 15,000 king salmon 75 cm mid eye to tail fork, the department shall close the sport fisheries in the Kenai River and the salt waters of Cook Inlet north of the latitude of Bluff Point to the taking of king salmon. In addition, it shall close the commercial drift gillnet fishery in the Central District within one mile of the Kenai Peninsula shoreline north of the Kenai River and within one and one-half miles of the Kenai Peninsula shoreline south of the Kenai river. Finally, the plan states that the Department shall close the commercial east side set gillnet fishery in the Upper Subdistrict of the Central District.
Therefore, consistent with the management plan, it is warranted to close sport fishing for late-run king salmon in the Kenai River and close the set gillnet commercial fishery in the Upper Subdistrict of the Central District. By current regulation drift gillnetting is not allowed within 1 mile of the shoreline north of the Kenai River, and drift gillnetting is not allowed within 1.5 miles of the shoreline south of the Kenai River. Saltwater king salmon fisheries north of the latitude of Bluff point will also be closed.