Kenai Classic: Fishing Not Closed to Politicians

salmon LM

Jul 2, 2009

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, caught this 63-pound king salmon during the 2006 Kenai River Classic, which raised about $800,000 for river conservation. (Office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski/Associated Press)

This comment from John is too important to be buried in the comment section!

Politicians and lobbyists from around the United States wine and dine and go fishing for Kings each year at the Kenai Classic. A couple hours from now (noon Thursday) everyone will be getting their pictures taken with their Kings that they caught on the Kenai River. Usually there are several US Senators, a bunch of State officials and lobbyists. Don Young was this year’s speaker. I guess the Governor isn’t there but I wouldn’t be surprised if Parnell is. From ADN’s article “Don Young to attend Kenai Classic Banquet”:

“The event has long attracted political power brokers from around the country who socialized and trolled for salmon during the annual fundraiser.”

I think it is so ironic that while people on the Yukon aren’t allowed to subsistence fish for Kings and seem to have a lot of difficulty even being heard by their state government, a couple hundred politicians from around the United States and Alaska are getting together, having a great time catching kings, raising funds for Kenai River preservation, and networking among themselves.

From the Kenai River Classic’s Website:

KRSA funds are dedicated to preserving critical spawning and rearing habitat, public education and research. To date, KRSA monies have been approved for a diverse number of projects including the construction of responsible bank fishing demonstration areas for the public; underwriting “Streamwatch,” an educational program in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, Alaska State Parks and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and to further ecosystem management research.

Apparently people aren’t an important part of the ecosystem.

~ Jane


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22 Responses to “Kenai Classic: Fishing Not Closed to Politicians”

  1. Jim Says:

    I’ve got a couple great ideas for Rural Alaska Classics–

    1. The Bycatch Classic– the trawler that throws away the biggest King wins.

    2. The Yukon King Classic– Free photo op! (mug shot)– the more you catch, the more you lose.

  2. KarenJ Says:

    How about throwing in the river some of the politicians who catch the smallest Kings?

  3. anonymousbloggers Says:

    KarenJ –

    In light of the civil disobedience in Marshall:

    “The Yukon River fishermen told reporters they caught 100 king salmon on Friday to feed their elders and others in need.”

    How about asking that the trophy catch at the Kenai Classic be photographed and then frozen and donated to retired elders and widows along the Yukon? The elders are the ones who can keep the First People’s culture and traditions alive. Their history is long and proud – worth speaking up for!

    ~ Jane

  4. Elsie Says:

    Yo, Jim! I appreciate your contributions here and look forward to many more.

    However, I keep re-reading your suggestion for “The Bycatch Classic”– “the trawler that throws away the biggest King wins.” I know it was tongue-in-cheek, but I have a different idea:

    I’d rather see the entire North Pacific/Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands pollock fishing industry be required to preserve their bycatch–ALL of it–and distribute it to the subsistence communities of Western Alaska.

    With the hundreds of million dollars the Seattle-based commercial industries profit from harvesting Alaskan fish, crabs, etc., the VERY least they could do is process the bycatch for the good of communities now deprived of fish due to closure regulations set by the Alaskan and federal governments.

    Any possibility that such a thing would yield a measurable improvement in the lives of the people of the Yukon region? Or would the distribution be hijacked by dishonest control freaks interested only in fattening their own wallets?

  5. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Jane – well, THAT would be an interesting idea and twist! The Kenai system is the sport fisher’s dream – when I lived in that part of AK, I didn’t even realize there might be regular subsistence openings on that river. It was always about sport fishing!

  6. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Elsie – doesn’t the bycatch currently go to waste?

  7. Jim Says:

    Elsie: I’ve been told it is not possible for the pollock fishermen to economically process bycatch. We need to learn more about that.

    Martha: There are numerous subsistence and personal use openings each year on the Kenai River.

    My family has caught salmon there most years since the 1920s. (We’re not indigenous). But this year I feel very uneasy taking Kenai Reds while First Alaskans elsewhere aren’t even allowed to go fishing. This is very disturbing.

    Jane– yes, there are many who need those fish more than the politicians who take them.

  8. Elsie Says:

    Martha, the commercial fishing boats harvest the species of fish they are authorized to take at the moment. So, anything they catch that they aren’t allowed by regulation to harvest is tossed back into the sea and is usually dead by that point. If they are fishing for pollock, then, as I understand it, everything else that is protected, like salmon bycatch, is wasted, tossed overboard, dead and lost to the rivers where they might have gone to spawn during their life cycles. And, where the salmon could have fed the rural fishing population.

    Bycatch results in wasted fish. As salmon supplies dwindle, and the subsistence fishermen are told to let the fish pass upstream, the commercial fishing boats out in the Bering Sea, etc., probably waste tons of various species of fish as “bycatch”. It has evolved into an insane system that rewards the big Seattle-based fishing companies working the Alaskan waters and punishes the rural people.

    And, Jim, if it’s not possible for the pollock fishermen to economically process bycatch, then maybe it’s just not economical for the subsistence families of rural Alaska to sit idly by, denied their annual catches that they need to survive the harsh winters. The economy of the pollock industry needs to be weighed against the economy of the rural people. But, the sad thing is, the Seattle-based pollock fishing industry is represented on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and others, and the rural people of Alaska apparently have no voice or votes on those boards.

    And, next winter is only a few weeks away, isn’t it?

  9. alaskapi Says:

    I’m a party-pooper, I guess.
    I’d like to see us ground all those “power brokers” until they hammer out meaningful changes to the Magnusson Stevens Act – changes which address the scattered way the councils look at different fisheries in given areas, remove ALL language and protections for accepting bycatch as acceptable collateral damage to factory fishing , FULLY fund scientific research of the various species with taxpayer $ and oversight, and, and… well … and then… maybe we could give them a nice lil strip of dried salmon and send em home.

  10. alaskapi Says:

    And while we’re at it, let’s ground em on a fuel barge – on one of those all too few trips the barges can make to coastal communities this time of year.

  11. Elsie Says:

    I’m with you on those plans, Alaskapi!

    It seems to me that magic could happen if only the state government in Alaska worried more about its citizens than kowtowing to the big, wealthy, out-of-state corporations fishing its waters. It’s another version of the Golden Rule: Them that has the gold makes the rules. And, the rural Alaskans are very sadly lacking either in gold or in voices that can be heard in the state capitol. Or, maybe the state just turns a deaf ear to the rural voices pleading for help year after year.

  12. Elsie Says:

    Hey, here’s one idea: Let’s pass a law that says, until the subsistence levels of salmon are truly met, and not based on one interview with one guy in Alakanuk, then, and only then, can the politicians do their little annual fishing shtick in the Kenai Classic!!!

    How about we start THERE?

  13. alaskapi Says:

    Yea, I vote Yea Elsie!

  14. alaskapi Says:

    The battle within this state over rural v urban subsistence , the federal response to it in the form of ANILCA, the suits the state has pursued against the fed over that, on and on, have not been touched on here at AnonyB BUT it all casts a pall, so far, on meaningful State response to subsistence issues related to factory fishing in federal waters off the coast of this state.

  15. Jim Says:

    Elsie: I don’t think we can compare the economy of the pollock industry to rural Alaska’s needs. One need is for cash and the other is for food. I wish we could reverse the priorities.

    Alaskapi: You are never a party-pooper. You know your stuff. I’d love to hear more from you about ANILCA and how it affects this mess. Speaking for myself, please keep it simple.

  16. UgaVic Says:

    Love the conversation all – just some FYI items—

    They can process salmon on board the pollock boats, and it does take different equipment BUT since the many CDQs own major portions of the pollock boats— they can insist on it.

    While at the by-catch meeting one CDQ group, Coastal Villages let me know they do process the salmon, with currently most of it going to Seattle food banks as that is where they are based or cheaper to ship to.

    They DID offer to make arrangements to get it to the Yukon TO HELP BUT, Ann and I could never get an answer from the villages.

    My take on it was that IF they accepted it, and it is a much less than a perfect option, it might be used against them as becoming a real option.

    Also I am learned while at the by-catch meeting, and much more since, that HALIBUT in Bristol Bay are suffering from this issue too. Not sure on other areas and effect.

    Do a little looking into trawling for whiting (think that is right) off the west coast of the US and their Chinook by-catch issue. We know what has happended to OR/WA/CA – not all from trawling by any means BUT….

    Just some food for the discussion mill:-)

  17. alaskapi Says:

    Here’s a start…
    here’s a good letter , 4th down , about ANILCA- by Mr Kasayulie of
    Akiachak, AK
    ( don’t derail on the letter about the FAA- I can tell you it won’t be good for your blood pressure , that one. whew. )

    Here’s the Federal Subsistence Board’s site and a general description and short overview and history.

    Whenever we Alaskans get our shorts in a twist over rural v urban preference for subsistence , you can be sure some piece of it has to do with the tension between the Alaskan Constitution rights for subsistence and the issues ANILCA tries to address.

    In relation to what you and Elsie mention, it serves me well to remember that much of rural America operated on a mostly-barter/trade economy until very recently. I see parallels with what Alaska is facing now.
    The thing is that we ALL lost when rural America lost out to factory farming, national timber companies and so on and that is a whole nother mess I’m not up to tackling tonight.

    Much of what folks in rural Alaska want is an echo of what folks on farms in the plains wanted. Different people and place, same things…

    Many of the arguments against granting our rural neighbors parity in Alaska’s decision making process for the future have to do with an underlying notion that they are backward, blah,blah,blah for wanting simple lives.
    Aside from the obviously doofus notion that working your buns off to feed and clothe yourself is simple, most of the arguments turn on a notion of progress which the rest of America is truly starting to question.

  18. Jim Says:


    From what you described, rural Alaskans remind me of the so-called “Founding Fathers” (and mothers) of the United States of America. Perhaps we should regard our Founding Fathers as rural too– our country was founded by people whose lifestyles probably most closely matched the lives of rural Alaskans.

    Now I’ll study your links.

    Thanks, Jim

  19. alaskapi Says:


    I think you are correct that villages would not truly benefit if bycatch were processed and sent to villages.
    It would further legitimize bycatch as acceptable in a variety of ways- none of which are truly acceptable.

    Declining stocks of multiple species are tied to factory trawling. The MS Act purports to manage fishing and fish for the benefit and sustainability of all .
    The law needs to meet it’s full responsibility to all those who must abide by it.

    Damaging one fishery to advance another is dumb. Damaging multiple fisheries to advance one fishery is utterly stupid… Even if you tart it up with packages of fish to the folks you deprived of their livlihoods , it’s just stupid.

    Now- WHERE is all this American ingenuity we all talk about? Where are the methods and materials which could/would make bycatch a thing of the past? Where are the penalties for catching far too many NON-permitted fish?
    How many $ have been spent AVOIDING dealing with coming up with a BETTER way to fish? On lobbyists, attorneys, marketing advert jingos, travel expenses for those on the trawler industry’s side to testify at meetings…?


  20. Jim Says:


    Never heard of the Federal Subsistence Board! And they’re on Tudor Road.

  21. alaskapi Says:


    I think we have more boards and councils and organized somethings in this state than we have people so you are forgiven for missing one.
    Or a few hundred…

  22. AKin OK Says:

    Wow that is one huge fish! Growing up, in the 80’s, I remember seeing my mom cut Kings that big on the Lower Yukon. I can’t remember the last time seeing a king that big.

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