By Jenny Neyman
The results of the personal-use dipnet fishery on the Kenai Peninsula are a stark contrast in opposites. Tens of thousands of Alaskans fill their freezers with low-cost, healthy salmon meat. At the same time, beaches are trashed; private property is trespassed on, used as a latrine and even set on fire; fragile, ecologically sensitive sand dunes and beach grass are trampled and destroyed; management resources are stretched thin; and area residents’ patience is frayed to the limit.
In order to preserve the benefits of the former, a dipnetter from Eagle River is calling on fellow personal-use fishery users to prevent the latter.
“I believe that we do need to take steps to police ourselves before others either police us or eliminate us,” said Steve Rasmussen, of Eagle River, who has been fishing in the Kenai and Kasilof river dipnet fisheries for several years. “I think that, as a group, we’ve become that big of a problem. Although I’ll stress that it’s very few individuals I think that are, quote unquote, the problem. While the great majority of dipnetters are very law-abiding and very respectful, there’s a few, I guess you’d say bad apples, that I think are endangering it for all of us.”
Rasmussen plans to submit a proposal to the Board of Fisheries that would require most dipnetters take a test before being allowed to fish. He proposes the test be presented as an educational tool and not be difficult to pass. Questions would be meant to inform dipnetters about the social responsibility aspects of the fishery — like protecting sand dunes and beach grass, carrying out trash and staying off private property — rather than regulations.
Rasmussen has taught hunter education classes for nearly 10 years, including being a volunteer instructor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and equates his idea for dipnetter education to the hunter education program.
“The rules are pretty common sense, they’re pretty straightforward. There’s a couple of detailed ones that you actually do have to learn, like recording your catch and clip the fins before they go in the cooler, but other than that I think it’s all common sense so far as dipnetting, and yet it’s not happening,” Rasmussen said. “And so the problem to solve seems to me to be 99.9 percent the exact same problem that hunting had to solve, and it made a huge dent in it through the hunter ed effort. So I propose a similar solution to a similar problem.” Continue reading