On Aug. 10, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game did something it hasn’t done in recent memory. It shut down both commercial and recreational king salmon fishing in Southeast Alaska.
Any king salmon caught after 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 10 must be released.
“It is imperative that Alaska offer relief now for these stocks,” says deputy commissioner Charlie Swanton, “with a focus on protecting future production.”
Commercial fishermen only needed four days in July to catch 66,000 kings during what the state calls the first opener.
A second opener, which had been slated for mid-August, would have allowed 31,000 king salmon to be caught by commercial trollers.
Swanton says many of the kings in the ocean are young and will spawn next year or after.
“Since a large number of kings that we get in the second opener are feeder kings, we felt compelled to do as much as we could to look toward the future in terms of those stocks,” he says. “Ocean conditions don’t look all that promising in 2018, and we want to do whatever we can to turn around and try to not replicate 2017 moving into 2018 and beyond.”
The recreational closure couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the summer charter season is in full swing. Areas of the southeast were closed for kings earlier in the summer.
But a region-wide closure? Unprecedented.
“And it is all directed at doing whatever we possibly can to preserve those kings that we anticipate are going to be in short supply in 2018,” says Swanton.