KRSA Condemns Lowering of Late-Run Kenai King Salmon Spawning Escapement Goal

March 1, 2024

Soldotna, AK – March 1, 2024- In a decision that can only be described as a gut punch to conservation efforts, a majority of the members of the State of Alaska Board of Fisheries voted to lower the spawning escapement goal for the late-run Kenai River king salmon to support additional commercial fishing opportunities for other salmon species.

The late-run of Kenai kings was declared a “stock of management concern” in October 2023 due to their chronic inability to meet escapement goals in four of the last five years and have continued to decline in numbers. This world-famous fish run, once the crown jewel of Alaska’s angling heritage, is now “circling the drain,” a situation KRSA Executive Director Shannon Martin describes as “tragic.”

The Commissioner of Alaska Department of Fish & Game clearly advised the Board that the higher the escapement goal, the more likely to recover the stock. Board of Fisheries members John Wood, Mike Wood, Gerad Godfrey, and Tom Carpenter argued that commercial opportunity was unduly burdened by the conservation needs of late-run Kenai king salmon. Plainly put, they were willing to sacrifice one species for the commercial harvest of another.

Members Marit Carlson-Van Dort, Greg Svendsen, and Stan Zuray demonstrated their conviction for conservation and opposed lowering the escapement goal.

“The Board’s decision to lower the escapement goal prioritizes short-term commercial interests over the long-term health and sustainability of Kenai kings,” said Martin. “This is a dark day for conservation in Alaska, we’re essentially signing off on the managed decline of a species that has defined our region.”

KRSA has long advocated for putting the fish first, insisting all user groups make sacrifices to allow Kenai king salmon a chance to recover. “Our stance has always been clear: the sustainability and recovery of the precious Kenai kings must be a priority,” said Martin. “Today’s decision undermines these efforts and sends a message that this board is willing to gamble with the future of our river and its most famous inhabitant.”

“We call on the State of Alaska, the Board of Fisheries, and all stakeholders to challenge this disastrous decision and commit to saving Kenai king salmon. We cannot allow this natural treasure to slip through our fingers due to a lack of courage and foresight,” concluded Martin.

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association will fight for the future of the Kenai king salmon, advocating for stronger conservation measures and a unified effort to restore this run to its previous, healthy population.

About the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA)

Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of the Kenai River. With a focus on conservation, education, and responsible angling practices, KRSA works tirelessly to protect and improve the Kenai River watershed for future generations. Through advocacy, research, and community engagement, KRSA is committed to the preservation of Alaska’s most iconic waterway and its world-renowned fishery resources.