Numbers misleading in subsistence fishing

Posted: Monday, January 04, 2010

In a recent letter to the Empire, Greg Hayes stated that 96 percent of all fish in Alaska are taken by commercial interests. This is a very misleading statement. Actually, about 70 percent of Alaska fish harvested are pollock, which are taken by trawlers. Then we have pink and chum salmon, which comprise about 15 percent of Alaska fish and are not highly coveted by sport and subsistence users. There are plenty pinks and chums to go around and there are little if no restrictions on the take of these fish, nor on sport pollock fishing for that matter.

On the species that matter to sports and subsistence users, there is a tremendous amount of sharing that takes place between commercial, sport and subsistence users. Twenty percent of all wild king salmon are taken by sport users in Southeast; 10 percent or more of coho and 15 percent or more of halibut are sport and subsistence fished as well.

I sport fish aggressively for coho, halibut and trout and have not had a single interference from commercial fishermen in my life.

I recently moved to Juneau in 2003, but was raised in Petersburg, where my family moved four generations ago in 1903. In many locations, nearly 75 percent and at times nearly 100 percent of sockeye salmon in Southeast Alaska are harvested by subsistence users.

Interestingly enough, the 20 percent of king salmon taken by sport users are taken by 50 percent non-residents. The remaining 80 percent of kings taken by trollers are taken by 90 percent residents.

There are volumes I could recite here, but the bottom line is that numbers do not tell the qualitative truth and Hayes should take a bit more time and study before he blasts commercial users.

Bob Thorstenson, Jr.


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