Kenai River Classic approach to future of fishing — Forum brings together leaders in recreational fishing industry

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing put on by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association on Wednesday in Soldotna.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing put on by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association on Wednesday in Soldotna.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Don’t let the term “recreational” mislead you, sportfishing is serious business, and panelists at the Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing made the case for it to be taken more seriously in public perception and federal fisheries management.

“We think there’s a pretty compelling case, particularly if you look at economics, as to why we need to elevate the focus on recreational fishing within our federal fisheries management system,” said Mike Leonard, policy director of the American Sportfishing Association. “If you look at finfish harvested in the U.S., there are actually more jobs supported and more of an economic impact by recreational fishing than commercial fishing. However, recreational fishing is only responsible for 2 percent of finfish harvested.”

The roundtable was put on Wednesday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association as part of its annual Kenai River Classic fundraising event. The panel consisted of various national leaders in the sportfishing community, representing Yamaha Marine, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Center for Coastal Conservation Board of Directors, American Sportfishing Association, Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Coastal Conservation Association.

Alaska’s congressional delegation participated (Sen. Lisa Murkowski in person, with Sen. Dan Sullivan sending his chief of staff, Joe Balash, as Sullivan was unable to attend), and of the 30 or so people in the audience, several were state politicians, though no elected or governmental officials representing the Kenai Peninsula were in attendance.

The two-hour presentations tackled the 20-year future of recreational fishing, with a look at current challenges and how to meet those challenges in the future to ensure that recreational fishing and its contribution to the economy and conservation continue to grow.

Martin Peters, manager of government relations for Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, and moderator of the event, detailed some of that contribution.

“America’s 11 million saltwater anglers spend $26.5 billion each year on fishing equipment, tackle, apparel and travel, creating 455,000 American jobs, generating $20.5 billion in income and contributing $70 billion to the American economy. Clearly, recreational fishing is important business for America,” Peters said.

Leonard and other panelists advocated for a system of federal fisheries management that puts recreational fishing more on par with commercial fishing.

“We would argue that, in terms of economics, we need to elevate the focus that we’re paying for recreational fishing as the economic case would lend yourself to think that that is a pretty sound argument,” Leonard said.

After all, said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association, money spent by anglers is a significant support of fisheries management and conservation.

“The American sportsmen and women are the backbone and often literally the wallet of good conservation. As a group we contribute $1.5 billion — I’m going to say that again because $1.5 billion is a stunning number — mainly through excise taxes, fishing licenses and direct donations,” Murray said. “That is that user-pay model that we talked about earlier, the American system of conservation funding.”

But it’s not only the federal fishery management system that doesn’t recognize the importance of recreational fishing, says Jeff Gabriel, legislative counsel at the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Anglers have failed to recognize it, as well. And that needs to change to more effectively push for change at the management level.

“Quite frankly, to educate our members as much as the fishing community itself as to what do we bring to the table,” Gabriel said. “What is it that we are as a community and what kind of power do we have? So, as an industry, we need to do a better job of explaining what it is that we do and what it is that we represent.”

As the event wrapped up Wednesday afternoon, Peters summed up the recommendations from the panel.

“Looking towards the next 20 years, we, who are recreational fishermen, need to consider new management models. We need to work harder to conserve the resource and, finally, we need to do a better job of organizing ourselves and expanding our coalition,” he said.

He added his own 2 cents, that, as change comes, disagreements with other groups should be handled in a “mutual gains” approach.

“You sit down at the same table with your adversary, and you enter into joint fact-finding. You do things like accepting responsibility for your mistakes, you acknowledge the concerns of the other side,” he said.

The recession took a bite out of recreational fishing, but participation is growing again — the latest survey from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found a 13 percent increase in participation in recreational fishing, Leonard said. That makes it even more incumbent on recreational anglers to band together and speak up, especially in addressing federal fishery management issues.

“We can’t really pay attention to those successes when, where our problems are arising, we’re not doing enough to meaningfully address those,” Leonard said.

Mullins ended on a happier note — specifically one from author Zane Grey, who said, “Hope burns always in the heart of a fisherman.”

“I think all of us as anglers are a pretty optimistic bunch. We’re always holding on to that hope that that next cast is going to be the one that will hook into the big one,” Mullins said. “… And so I tend to put myself in that very optimistic, hopeful camp when I think about the future of our sport, the future of our industry and the future of the conservation of our resource, as well. … We have a clear vision for the future of where we want to go, where we need to be as a community. We’re not only talking about challenges but we’re bringing solutions to the table, so I think that’s very important.”



Filed under ecology, fishing, Kenai River

6 responses to “Kenai River Classic approach to future of fishing — Forum brings together leaders in recreational fishing industry

  1. John Nelson

    One more gambit in KRSA/Penny’s relentless efforts to eventually turn the entirety of Cook Inlet into an all-out, commercial sport-fishery. It’s all about money . . again . . commercial sport-fishing interests trying to shut down commercial net fishing. Senator Murkowski should have avoided such blatant, special-interest antics.

    We’d have to be stupid to place all our fisheries resources into the one economic basket of commercial sport-fishing . . bad, bad business. Bob Penny’s Long-Term Goal in his own words . . from eight years ago . . nothing has changed:

    House Committee on Economic Development and Trade/ The Economics of Sportfishing
    April 24, 2007

    Bob Penney quotes: 55:35

    There isn’t a single thing your committee or this legislature can do to have more economic impact and strengthen the state than one single thing, now that is increase the availability for sportfishing in Cook Inlet; it will double in value in two years. You take a pond here and put catfish in it, the people are gonna show up. Take a part of the channel and put king salmon in it, I assure you the people are gonna show up. They’ll be there. The problem with cook inlet, even though we’re the middle of the population, we have only allowed fifteen percent of the harvest. There’s 216,000 licensed anglers in southcentral; we get fifteen percent of the harvest. The commercial fishermen take eighty-five [percent]. Now, you want to see something change? Then see that take place, make that accessibility [sic] for the public. There is a move on now, and it’s going to the Board of Fish, and it will be in the legislature in an initiative or referendum that this will have to be take place. That the way the fisheries manage [sic] should be turned around one-hundred eighty degrees in Southcentral like it has to the rest of the United States, and that is, the public should have the first right to allocation for the fisheries they need. Your family, my family, people that live there should have the amount of the fish that they need for their own needs. And the tourists should. Then, whatever is surplus to our needs could be commercially harvested. That’s the way the fishery’s got to be changed and it’s going to be coming down to see you in some manner in the next few years because the public’s gonna wanna see that done.

    So, summarizing I’m saying to you, it was Jones and Stokes did a study in 1986 that we got 320,000 dollars from Governor Sheffield for, that shows the economic impact of the fisheries in southcentral. Then, a king salmon that was caught was eleven-hundred and eighteen dollars, twenty years ago, economic impact. Any salmon was one-hundred ten [sic] dollars economic impact. What do you think it is twenty years later today? So if you wanna look at something that will really increase the economic impact in our entire state, make more fish available to the public! Believe me, the tourists will come, they have, every one in the nation you want to. So, I hope you listen to this, hear what’s gonna be coming down the pike further, but it’s time to see in Cook Inlet, it’s time to see the fisheries change to where we the public have a right to the fish we want. Anything else then can be caught and sold and I thank you for your time.

    A few questions and comments then came from the committee. About how his (Penney’s) comments are not just applicable to Cook Inlet, but also state wide. Comments from the committee about the nice houses along the Kenai, and fishing on the Kenai. One committee member stated that the best year fishing he had on the river was when the Exxon Valdez oil spill closed down the commercial fishery, implied that obviously if you don’t catch the fish in the ocean more are available for sport anglers.

    Bob Penney then follows up:

    The economic value of the land along the Kenai River privately held from Skilak to Ames bridge; three years ago the assessed value to the borough of only the privately owned land was three hundred and thirty-five million dollars. As Mr. Busey just said to you, it’s increased since then. Now, I know it’s well over five-hundred, but we haven’t seen what the borough’s assessed it. But gentlemen and ma’m, all that assessment in value came from one reason; cause there’s fish in the river. And you put the fish in the river, and you put the fish in the inlet, and you give the opportunity for the public you’ll see the economic engine run hard.

    (emphais added)

    • Bobby

      What on earth is “commercial sportfishing?” You don’t sound like someone who is very familiar with this politics of fish.

      And it is an objective fact that recreational fishing represents a greater economic impact than commercial fishermen, while taking fewer fish. Each fish is worth more money when perused recreationally than when perused commercially.

      That doesn’t mean anyone wants to eliminate commercial fishermen. It does, however, mean that allocations should give rec anglers their fair share. That’s all anyone is asking for – a fair shake for rec anglers.

      No where in your quote is there an implication that commercial fishing must come to an end for this to happen. No rec angler would claim that.

  2. This fish grab by sportsmen and the recreational industry ignores the greater good, Consumers having access to their common owned resource, the fish thanks to the commercial fisherman.
    This is also a display of greed.
    The other issue that must be considered, and is conveniently ignored is the carbon footprint of the recreational industry.
    Big fuel consuming trucks, belching carbon, towing boats up and down our highways is but one example. Throw in those airline tickets to get to Cook Inlet, or any other area of the country that is also going through this fish grab by recreational fishing, and their paid lobbyists, its noticeable that the recreational industry does not serve the greater good.

    • Mark

      Hahahaha, I see this guy “borehead” making ludicrous arguments all over the place. Anytime something positive is said about the backbone of conservation – the rec anglers who fund 1.5 billion annually in conservation dollars – you’ll find borehead in the comments section with some half-baked theory about families fishing being a bad thing. All the while he will pretend that the overwhelming majority (over 90%) of our seafood isn’t imported.

  3. Pingback: Kenai River Classic approach to future of fishing — Forum brings together leaders in recreational fishing industry |

  4. Thomas

    I think what’s lost on many is how inhumane the practice of dip netting is. Have you seen the salmon that survive the dip nets? They have their scales torn from them and look white as ghosts. They all die down river after suffering…

    It’s so sad that this wildly inhumane tactic is still allowed in Alaska when it has been banned almost everywhere else.

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