For the fourth year in a row, the forecast return of early run Kenai River king salmon is at or below the minimum escapement level of 5,300 fish as defined by the Optimal Escapement Goal (OEG). Based on this forecast, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) has issued a preseason Emergency Order (EO) to close the Early-run Kenai River king salmon fishery. This will be the fourth year in a row the early run was closed to retention preseason and the third it was closed to retention and fishing. In 2012, the same closures occurred in-season.
The Kasilof River king salmon fishery in May and June will be restricted to no bait, with the harvest of hatchery fish reduced to one, and to allow two days per week for harvest of naturally-produced kings.
Closures are necessary to protect early run king escapement during a period of historic low abundance caused by an unfavorable ocean environment. The early run is managed for a precautionary OEG of 5,300 to 9,000 which is higher than the Sustainable Escapement Goal (SEG) of 3,800-8,500 identified by ADFG. The OEG, which was adopted by the Board of Fisheries from a proposal by KRSA, recognizes historical uncertainties in stock assessments based on sonar data. While not yet announced, additional closures to protect early run kings in the middle river above the bridge can be expected for all or part of July if the early run forecast proves to be accurate based on in-season information.
No restrictions have been announced for the late run Kenai kings at this time. The forecast of 30,011 is well below average and similar to the top end of the SEG of 15,000 to 30,000. This means that we are not out of the woods yet on the late run. The forecast is similar to last year’s run which required paired restrictions in the sport and commercial fisheries.