This year’s commercial salmon harvest was bad. Really bad.
The harvest in Upper Cook Inlet was reportedly the lowest since 1971, with drift gillnet and east side setnet harvests 86 percent lower than their respective recent 10-year averages. On top of that, the price for sockeye salmon paled in comparison with recent years.
That burden hits close to home for a lot of Kenai Peninsula fishermen. At the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday, representatives from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association called on the assembly to request that the state of Alaska declare an economic disaster for Upper Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisheries.
“Within the drift fleet it was also one of our very worst years, matter of fact, since statehood," said UCIDA Executive Director Roland Maw at the meeting. "And the question that I most often get here in the office is, ‘How am I going to pay my heating bills this winter, Roland?’ And I don't have a good answer for that.”
So, what exactly went wrong? Brian Marston, Fish and Game’s area manager for Upper Cook Inlet commercial fisheries, says it was a combination of factors.