The Kuskokwim Salmon Management Group met a day earlier than planned in an emergency meeting to address the low showing of king salmon. How low is it? Well, the main tool for assessing the run strength is Bethel Test Fishery (BTF) and the cumulative count as of July 1 is the lowest on record. However, just because the BTF numbers are the lowest on record does not necessarily mean that the overall abundance of king salmon is the lowest on record, but it is a good indicator that the run is very weak.
Here are the results of the BTF as of 7/1:
It is possible that the escapement this year – even though the BTF cumulative is the lowest on record – will exceed that of 2010, which to date is the lowest escapement on record and the only year that didn’t meet the newly established 65,000 escapement goal set by the Department of Fish & Game; but only time may tell. Hopefully, the recent rains won’t wash out any, or many, of the weirs and we can get accurate escapement counts on the spawning grounds; that’s really the only way we know how effective management decisions were.
According to the Department, two different modeling tools were producing multiple outputs that are saying different things, so the F&G could not say whether or not the drainage-wide escapement of 65,000 kings will be met. Both tools, however, were indicating that whatever the escapement ends up being, it won’t be too far off of the lower bound of the range which is 65,000. It was estimated that as of today 78% of the king run has passed Bethel.
Because that leaves a fairly significant amount of fish yet to pass Bethel, further restrictions (i.e., extending the 6″ or smaller mesh size period from the mouth all the way up to Chuathbaluk) were agreed upon by both the Department and the Working Group.
Here’s the news release that resulted from today’s emergency meeting (note that these dates are extensions from the already in-place similar restrictions that began in the lower river on June 28 and the section from Tuluksak to Chuathbaluk at 1:00 am Wednesday July 3rd):