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Killing Kenai kings with kindness? Paper argues catch-and-release a death sentence for many fish.

December 15th, 2013 | Posted by Alaska Salmon Alliance in Articles | News | Opinion | Research

By Craig Medred, December 8, 2013

A new theory has emerged to explain why the world’s largest king salmon are disappearing from Alaska’s Kenai River: Catch-and-release anglers are massacring them with kindness.

In a 19-page document that mirrors the format of a scientific paper, Roland Maw, who holds a doctorate in forestry and wildlife management from the University of Alberta in Canada but has for years been involved in commercial salmon research in Alaska, contends that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has seriously underestimated the number of Kenai kings that die as a result of being caught and released.

Killing Kenai kings with kindness? Paper argues catch-and-release a death sentence for many fish.

Craig Medred

December 8, 2013
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A king salmon caught on the world-famous Kenai River. Poor returns of kings on the Kenai in recent years have caused some friction between sport and commercial fishers. Keith Parker / cc via flickr

A new theory has emerged to explain why the world’s largest king salmon are disappearing from Alaska’s Kenai River: Catch-and-release anglers are massacring them with kindness.

In a 19-page document that mirrors the format of a scientific paper, Roland Maw, who holds a doctorate in forestry and wildlife management from the University of Alberta in Canada but has for years been involved in commercial salmon research in Alaska, contends that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has seriously underestimated the number of Kenai kings that die as a result of being caught and released.

A 1982 state study calculated that close to 85 percent of the Kenai kings caught and released by anglers survive. Anglers who pursue the practice have long argued it is the humane way to fish.

But Maw argues that what they do to the fish isn’t all that much kinder than killing them, and he takes issue with the state’s view of high survival rates.

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