Aniak Resident Asks Feds To Take Control Of Kuskokwim, Employ Conservation

Jul 17, 2017

Gillnet fishing on the Kuskokwim River near Aniak.
Credit Dave Cannon

Today could be an important day for Kuskokwim River king salmon and those who fish them.

Many people are unhappy about how the Kuskokwim River has been managed this summer. Some wanted more fishing, and some wanted less. Dave Cannon, of Aniak, has taken his frustrations to the top.

In the 1990s, Dave Cannon worked in Idaho as a fish biologist for the U.S. Forest Service. There, he watched local king salmon stocks plummet and the federal government list the species as threatened. He doesn't want the same situation to come to the Kuskokwim, and he fears that the river is heading down an unsustainable path.

Today, Monday, July 17, the Federal Subsistence Board will consider a proposal from Cannon that asks the Board to do three things: take over management of the Kuskokwim River, limit salmon fishing to local subsistence users, and use conservation to guide their decisions.

Cannon lives in Aniak where he worked as a fish biologist for many years. He recently resigned from the Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group. Cannon is also a KYUK Board member.

He says that he’s “very disappointed” that the managers this season decided multiple times to open the river to gillnet fishing at the same time that biologists were warning that the king salmon run could be the lowest on record.

Now, later into the run, numbers have climbed and state biologists say that kings could likely meet escapement.

Cannon acknowledges that the need in local communities for fish is important, but says what’s good for the fish is good for the fisherman. And that, he thinks, is conservation.

The Director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission, Mary Peltola, says that she respects Cannon’s position, but her opinion is that local management is challenging enough and that Cannon’s request would move management outside the region.

Cannon says that sometimes outsiders can make more rational decisions during hard times because they’re not swayed by local priorities.

You can listen in on the Federal Subsistence Board meeting today via teleconference at 888-455-5897, passcode 3344290. Cannon's request should be addressed this afternoon.