The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group wrapped up their meeting after hours of debating on whether or not to hold a commercial fishing period on Friday, July 9th for the Sub-districts 1-A and B.
The working group’s discussion remembered last year, when the State Department of Fish and Game decided to close the river to subsistence fishing, despite the working group’s recommendations to have a small subsistence harvest, during the first arrival of King Salmon.
Commercial Fisheries Biologist Travis Elison recommended to the working group that there be a commercial opener on Friday, July 9th.
Upriver working group member LaMont Albertson of Aniak, asked that the commercial fishery not be opened then.
“It would be a good idea to put off the commercial opener by 48 to 96 hours or something like this to get a few more silver salmon upriver,” says Albertson.
Sport fish representative, Beverly Hoffman of Bethel, also asked the Department of Fish and Game to hold off.
“ more silvers to the spawning grounds, and more to upriver people, and Travis would you consider holding off?” asked Hoffman.
Elison answered Hoffman this way:
“and we look at Bethel Test Fish numbers they just jumped up four days ago, we didn’t harvest those fish, those fish went upstream for subsistence users and for escapement,” says Elison.
Albertson says he’s been hearing the same recommendations since the King season, and would like to make sure the silvers get into the system to make escapement goals and subsistence harvests. But he wasn’t optimistic that it would happen.
“Let’s think about the needs upriver on this, and then Fish and Game will do what they want to anyhow regardless of anything we say,” says Albertson.
Elison told the group that the silver population looks healthy.
“we’ve got a surplus identified that we need, we’ve got buyers interested, we have commercial fisherman interested, fish are beautiful right now they are in great condition, so coming up on the peak of the run we want to fish through the peak, not just one period on the peak,” says Elison.
Beverly Hoffman voiced her disapproval.
“I’m very disappointed with your statement, I just am disappointed,” says Hoffman.
Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association Executive Director, Karen Gillis sided with the Working Group members.
“I agree with Bev wholeheartedly, and if Travis did not hear today the message from the stakeholders, you’re not listening you’re not even trying, and if you came here today with this decision in mind, then you’ve wasted everyone’s time here,” says Gillis.
LaMont Albertson reiterated his comment that the Working Group is purely advisory and the State will do what they want.
“ I can not believe the amazing amount of insensitivity that I’m hearing on the part of the Department, however I am not surprised, and I appreciated you making my point for me Travis,” says Albertson.
Elison didn’t make a decision on the opener during the meeting saying they would make an announcement today.
“ I will discuss this with our research staff, and also regional leadership before making a final decision on this,” says Elison.
For KYUK news I’m Sophie Evan.