KENAI — The large sockeye salmon run brought scores of Alaskan residents to the beaches of Kenai in order to access the dipnet personal use fisheries. Most of those who made the trip came away with their allotment of fish. However, the increased traffic took a toll on the beaches.
With a large amount of people in a confined area, there is a risk of environmental and social issues, Kenai Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates said.
However, Frates explained that impact was not as substantial as some might think.
“With the seasonal enforcement officers and their presence, a lot of the environmental impacts were minimal,” Frates said.
The low impacts could be attributed to the efforts the city puts forth to make sure the beaches are clean during and after the season. While the fishery was open, Gabe Linegar was appalled by the amount of trash and half-used fish that lay on the beach from dipnetters not taking care of their mess, he said.
“It seems like they really just kind of forget what’s important with our land and what they’re doing out there, they don’t clean up anything “ Linegar said. “They leave their trash, they leave fish remains all over, it’s real sad.”
Frates said his crew worked on cleaning up the beach at night when the fishery was closed during the season. After the fishery was open for 24 hours, he said his crew was dispatched during the day also.
“We were doing what we had to do to keep on top of that,” Frates said.
Linegar said he was very impressed with the city’s clean-up efforts, although he felt those efforts shouldn’t rest solely on the city’s shoulders.
“I know the city is doing the best they can,” Linegar said. “Us as citizens and residents of Alaska need to start cleaning up after ourselves.”
Linegar is a Kenai River guide and said some of his clients from out of state poke fun at their observations of the dipnet fishery.
Most of them, he said, are astounded they see people partying instead of using the resources in front of them.
“The fact that out of state people make fun of us because of the mess, it’s not good,” Linegar said. “It’s supposed to be a subsistence deal and people kind of turn it into a big party instead of taking it as a resource, the fish.”
Frates said he was able to use some extra resources to be able to provide help during the heavy season.
“Yeah, we had fish on the beach,” he said. “We did more raking this year than any year before.”
Now that the steady flow of traffic into Kenai is pretty much over, city manager Rick Koch said it’s time to slow down and take a breath.
“This week we’re not doing a whole lot of anything,” Koch said. “You push to get through the thing and get done, we’ll spend a few days cleaning up.”
Frates’ crew took part in an extensive two-day clean up with almost his entire staff with help from the Kenai Central High School Ski Team, among other volunteers.
“The beaches are pretty darn clean right now,” he said Tuesday.