Cabela's eyes hatchery trout for Anchorage store after web protest

Molly Dischner | Bristol Bay Times
Bob Hallinen

The internet campaign opposing a proposal to store live Kenai River trout in an Anchorage fish tank has largely come to an end after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said the trout would likely come from an Anchorage hatchery.

An Oct. 9 post on the AlaskaGuideList blog said that Cabela's had a permit to take rainbow trout from the Kenai River for a fish tank at their store, calling it "an unprecedented access to our resource."

Cabela's is a Nebraska-based outdoor retailer with plans to open a South Anchorage store in 2014.

On Oct. 11, the blog was updated, and the author said that Cabela's had "unofficially" informed Fish and Game that they would not harvest the fish from the Kenai.

Cabela's did not respond to a phone call looking for comment on the apparent decision not to take fish from the Kenai.

ADFG's Ryan Ragan said Oct. 11 that the department was willing to work with the company to get them hatchery trout.

Cabela's applied for, and received, a Fish Resource Permit, or FRP, from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that allows the company to harvest fish from the Kenai River or get them from the William Jack Hernandez Hatchery, in Anchorage.

An FRP is required for any use of fish, or other aquatic resources, that is not covered in regulation. To get one, an applicant typically files online. Then the permit goes through a review process within the department, or ADFG. Several people review the draft permit, said FRP coordinator Scott Ayers, who works in ADFG's Division of Sport Fish, and a decision is typically made within 30 days.

The Cabela's permit is good through 2013, and the company had not yet applied for a 2014 permit at of Oct. 11, Ayers said. An FRP is required to hold the fish after they are caught, so a new one will be required if Alaska trout are to live in the aquarium at Cabela's next year. The new application must include a report on the fish taken so far.

In this case, the permit allows Cabela's to catch up to 30 trout and keep them, live, in an aquarium rather than killing them at the river, or get them from a hatchery.

Even if the retailer chose to fish in the Kenai, it would have to get permission from the area management biologist before going to catch the fish, and would still be required to follow regular sportfishing regulations, including size restrictions and bag limits. That's generally the process an individual or entity with an FRP must follow when harvesting fish to keep as allowed by the permit.

Cabela's is not the only entity with a FRP to keep wild fish in aquariums.

Ayers said the Division of Sport Fish gets about 300 requests for FRPs each year, and approximately 50 of them are for keeping wild fish in aquariums.

Generally, those are issued for scientific or educational purposes. Many are issued to universities and educational institutions, Ayers said.

Other sorts of projects also require FRPs, such as research, or if culvert is being placed to improve fish passage, and fish are handled in the process, Ayers said.

The Cabela's permit is issued as on an educational basis.

The store is planning have a display on native fish and invasive species in Alaska, as well as access to sport fish regulation books and other information on Alaska's fish.


Alaska Journal of Commerce