By MOLLY DISCHNER, ALASKA JOURNAL OF COMMERCE
Editor’s note: This is the eighth in the Morris Communications series, “The case for conserving the Kenai king salmon.”
Each spring, as the early-run king salmon start returning to the Kenai River, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game begins a four-month effort to manage fishing in a way that ensures enough salmon swim past fishermen of all types to meet escapement goals.
“’Escapement’ is actually what escapes fisheries and lives to spawn,” said ADFG biologist Tim McKinley, who helped draft the current king salmon escapement goals during the fall and winter of 2012 and 2013.
ADFG sets the escapement goals, which are the number of fish that need to return to produce healthy returns in the future.
On the Kenai, managers try to meet escapement goals for several runs: late- and early-run kings, and sockeyes.
For each run, ADFG wants a target range of fish to return and spawn — too few fish and too many fish are both problematic for future returns.
At high spawning levels, density dependent factors can reduce survivability and therefore the number of salmon that return in the future from that spawning year, according to McKinley.
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