Story last updated at 3:11 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2002

Bears vs. salmon
Dear Editor,

Re: stocking McNeil River: During the decades of managing fish and game biologically, there were fish for commercial fishermen, fish for bears, bears for hunters and bears for viewers. Viewers were not satisfied with 15-20 bears at once and used political pressure to eliminate hunting and ban fishing. The bears increased to 40 and then to 80 and more. Fishing by bears increased dramatically, leaving few spawners to sustain the run. Elimination of hunting allowed big boars to dominate the population and they are notorious for eating their babies, the next generation. Even with fish stocking, the bear population will be out of balance.

The aquaculture association wanted to stock Paint River with several species of salmon for all fishermen and bears but the viewers fought the project in an effort to keep the bears concentrated at McNeil. This abnormally high bear concentration has decimated the salmon.

If management of this ecosystem returns to a biological basis, fishermen would support allocating hatchery space to raising chum salmon fry for stocking. The chum life cycle is three to five years. If left to recover naturally, it would take an even further reduction in bears and 12-15 years to ensure adequate spawners. Stocking could cut that in half, especially if pathology and genetics plans were streamlined. Under this program, we could again have fish and bears for all.

Jessie Nelson

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