In the contentious world of fish counting, the Alaska Salmon Alliance is trying to reason with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game when it comes to late-run king salmon escapement goals.
"We definitely think there's a low cycle of king salmon abundance at this time, no doubt about that, but these kind of cycles have happened before," said Arni Thomson, the alliance's executive director.
Thomson is worried the Kenai River's current late-run escapement goals, of 15,000 to 30,000 fish, are actually contributing to the low salmon runs.
"When you put too many fish in the river, there's not enough food to feed what you're putting in the river, and then you run into major problems," said commercial fisherman Joe Malatesta.
Fish and Game officials say they still don't see overharvesting as a major problem.
"King salmon runs around the state aren't doing very well, so we're barely scraping by, getting our escapements in these rivers all around the state," said Fish and Game scientist Bob Clark.
Escapement goals around the state are reviewed every few years, and Cook Inlet is up for review in March of 2014.
"We'll present to the Board of Fisheries a review of all the escapement goals off Cook Inlet, and they'll get to weigh that as they deliberate on the proposals, for that particular area," Clark said.
Clark says the implementation of new fish-counting sonar technology will help incorporate more accurate numbers into the reports submitted by biologists, which will help determine if escapement numbers need to be adjusted.
Contact Adam Pinsker