The Yupiit Nation has set out a preliminary strategy for dealing with this summer’s king salmon closures and avoiding what they call “a real possibility of civil disobedience.” The consortium of federally recognized tribes from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta finished a two-day meeting last week in Bethel.
The Yupiit Nation wants tribes to be involved in the day-to-day management of fish. In their tentative 2014 Fishing Strategy, representatives are seeking to establish so-called ANILCA section 809 agreements between tribes and the federal government to manage any available king salmon harvest. Mike Williams is Chief of Yupiit Nation.
“The harvesting, distribution of fish by elders in each village and the enforcement for harvesting will be performed by tribal enforcement officers,” said Williams.
Managers don’t expect there to be many, if any harvestable kings. At last week’s meeting Acting Refuge Manager Brian McCaffery expressed support for a very small harvest of kings, around 1,000 total, if the run appears to be strong.
Determining the run strength will not be easy. With so many early season restrictions, mangers will not be able to learn about the run from fisherman – they would rely almost exclusively on the Bethel Test Fishery.
Williams argues that a harvest of 5,000 kings would be better. The Yupiit nation is proposing several tribal test fisheries to gather more data up and down the river, and potentially find a harvestable surplus.
“We haven’t been involved in that process before, but I think if we’re going to determine real numbers and participation from the villages, I think we’ve got to think outside this box,” said Williams.
The Yupiit Nation is seeking to write a long-term fishing strategy. There are more Yupiit nation meetings scheduled for June.