The state has reversed its decision to allow Yukon River fishermen to sell king salmon.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game authorized the first sale of Yukon kings since 2011 during a commercial opening on Monday. The opening targeted fall chum, but any kings caught could be sold as well.
Subsistence users along the Yukon called the Department out for being so restrictive in the beginning of the king season and then opening it to commercial sales.
Forrest Bowers, Fish and Game Deputy Director of Commercial Fisheries, says that the public is right. Allowing fishermen to sell Yukon kings goes against the state’s original management plan, which was to limit the use of nets to allow kings to swim upriver to spawn.
“When users do point out inconsistency or express concern that perhaps we aren’t interpreting a regulation the way the Board [of Fisheries] intended or the way the public thought it was understood, well, then that gives us pause,” said Bowers.
The restrictions were put in place by managers worried that kings would not meet escapement goals. Then the largest run of kings in more than a decade filled the river and eased those concerns.
Bowers says that the state’s Board of Fisheries will need to rule on how to liberalize a fishery when a run performs better than expected.
With commercial sales for kings now closed, fishermen will return to releasing the species alive or keeping them for subsistence.
Yukon District One will have a 12-hour commercial chum opening beginning Thursday, July 20 at 3 p.m. The state is waiting on confirmation from the river’s only fish buyer before announcing an opportunity for District Two.