subsistence

ONC crews in 2014 distribute fish to local elders. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

ONC crews in 2014 distribute fish to local elders. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

The first fishing closures go into effect on the lower Kuskokwim River Thursday. A few days later, on May 25th, the state will put nets in the water. Those nets are one of the Department of Fish and Game’s main research tools for gauging the king salmon run, the Bethel Test Fishery. Read more →

The Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission met for the first time in Bethel. Photo by Ben Matheson  / KYUK.

The Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission met for the first time in Bethel. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

The path to unified management of Kuskokwim salmon stocks is uncharted, but along the way the newly established Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission wants involvement at each step. That begins with tribal consultation in preparations for another summer of sacrifice. The commission’s inaugural meeting concluded Wednesday in Bethel.

Another weak run of king salmon is expected this summer after several years of decline. State and federal managers are planning a slate of restrictions on par with last year’s, which brought in the smallest king salmon harvest on record.

Delegate Arthur Lake of Kwigillingok wants tribes to be part of the decisions.
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Federal staff will manage the 2015 king run within the Yukon Delta refuge boundary. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

Federal staff will manage the 2015 king run within the Yukon Delta refuge boundary. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

Federal staff will again manage king salmon on the lower Kuskokwim River after requests from tribes. Earlier this year, a handful of tribal governments asked the federal subsistence board to implement federal management. The Federal Subsistence Board deferred last month, but at a Friday meeting of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, US Fish and Wildlife Service leaders announced a plan for federal management.

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The Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group put together a list of recommendations for early season chinook salmon management. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

The Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group put together a list of recommendations for early season chinook salmon management. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

A couple months before the king salmon begin to enter the river, the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group met to set recommendations for an early season of conservation.

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Fishermen and managers discussed ways to improve fishery management Thursday at the Kuskokwim Fishermen's Meeting. Photo by Ben Matheson /KYUK.

Fishermen and managers discussed ways to improve fishery management Thursday at the Kuskokwim Fishermen’s Meeting. Photo by Ben Matheson /KYUK.

Expecting another below average king salmon run and a slate of early season closures, fishery managers circled up with Kuskokwim fishermen Thursday, in Bethel, to set in motion preparations for a tough season ahead.

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Fresh Kuskokwim salmon. Photo by KYUK.

Fresh Kuskokwim salmon. Photo by KYUK.

The Federal Subsistence Board will decide next month whether to limit salmon fishing to local residents on the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers. The limitation will apply only on federal lands, like the Yukon Delta Refuge, which encompasses the Kuskokwim below Aniak. They can also delegate the day-to-day management to federal staff and make a strategy for allocating the limited salmon.
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The Federal Subsistence Board will look at special actions requests to federalize salmon fisheries. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

The Federal Subsistence Board will look at special action requests to federalize salmon fisheries. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

The Federal Subsistence Board will be considering federalizing the Yukon and Kuskokwim salmon fisheries this summer.

Officials with the Office of Subsistence Management have received six special action requests asking the board to limit the fishery to federally qualified users and manage salmon stocks. They also ask for an analysis to determine eligible users and develop an allocation strategy.
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Greg Roczicka provides input about a new process for determining rural communities. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Greg Roczicka provides input about a new process for determining rural communities. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

The Federal Subsistence Board is working to define “rural”. That’s critical for deciding who is eligible for the federal rural subsistence priority for taking fish and game on federal lands.
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Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission steering committee members hear from AVCP attorney Sky Starkey. Photo by Ben Matheson  / KYUK.

Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission steering committee members hear from AVCP attorney Sky Starkey. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Efforts to establish tribal co-management of Kuskokwim salmon are slowly progressing. A steering committee is in Bethel to sketch out the future of who regulates the river. Kuskokwim fishermen are eager to be managers, instead of simply advisers.

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Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

Alaska subsistence users currently navigate a complicated dual management system of state and federal control. That could expand in the future to include tribes working closely in some form of co-management. Kuskokwim tribal leaders plan to take steps soon toward establishing a tribal commission for the co-management of salmon.

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