Yukon Kuskokwim Regional Advisory Council Recommends Limiting King Fishing on the Kuskokwim River to Federally Qualified Subsistence Users

by Ben Matheson on April 7, 2014

James Charles discusses salmon management at the Yukon Kuskokwim Subsistence Regional Advisory Council meeting in Bethel. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

James Charles discusses salmon management at the Yukon Kuskokwim Subsistence Regional Advisory Council meeting in Bethel. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

The Yukon Kuskokwim Subsistence Regional Advisory Council on Monday pushed forward a recommendation to close fishing for king salmon to all but federally qualified subsistence users. They also moved to prioritize the allocation of any surplus to those who cut, dry, and smoke kings in the traditional way.

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As the upcoming summer is expected to bring a weakened king salmon run along with unprecedented fishing restrictions, the Federal Subsistence Board will have to decide whether to limit the pool of fisherman to federal qualified subsistence users who live in a select number of communities.

The Yukon Kuskokwim Subsistence Regional Advisory Council unanimously voted to support that proposal, which was put forward by the Napaskiak Tribal Council. Their Tribal Administrator Stephen Maxie addressed the council.

“To close it to everybody, it’s not right, close it to [sporfishers] and also tourists, and people coming in.. doctors and nurses living in Bethel and fishing for Chinook and bringing it up to Alaska Airlines and shipping it to Green Bay, Wisconsin. That’s not right,” said Maxie.

If passed, fishermen who live in places outside the region like Anchorage would not be able to fish for kings, if available. People who live locally, native or non-native would still be eligible if the board moves that section forward.

The board chose to modify the list of eligible communities. They added in Napaimute, Georgetown, and Telida. Napaimute tribal member and advocate Bee Kristovich made the case.

“The people who go up there, live up there, have houses up there should be included, so they can fish,” said Kristovich.

Gene Peltola Jr. discusses salmon management at the Yukon Kuskokwim Subsistence Regional Advisory Council meeting in Bethel. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Gene Peltola Jr. discusses salmon management at the Yukon Kuskokwim Subsistence Regional Advisory Council meeting in Bethel. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Another piece to the so-called section 804 analysis that limits harvest to those communities includes an allocation plan. The council recommended a proposal put forth by Greg Roczicka that would limit any harvest to residents who have a fish rack or smokehouse in which they cut, dry, and smoke the fish in the traditional way. They must have have 10 years or more of experience in that custom.

Roczicka says as salmon fishing is moved later in the summer to avoid the heaviest king fishing, that works fine for chum and sockeye that can be put away in many modern ways like canning or freezing.

“Whereas with drying and smoking, you are actually moving that activity into a period where a lot more waste occurs. No matter how hard you try you’re going to lose more of your fish, getting soured or maggot infested, or whatever else.”

Any directed king salmon harvest would depend on there being a surplus, which is not likely in the 2014 run forecast. And any kings above the escapement could end up in nets intended for whitefish and other salmon species.

That outlook prompted the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working group to approve closing the river to 6” gillnets on May 20th, and with the except of dipnets, not opening to salmon fishing until the last week of June.

Tribal consultation was planned for Tuesday morning. A public hearing on the duration of the proposed special action was scheduled for 1:00 Tuesday afternoon.

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