Op-Ed Piece By Bev Hoffman In The Delta Discovery Over The Decline Of The Kuskokwim Kings

Opinion- What are We Willing to Do to Save Our Kuskokwim Kings

Beverly Hoffman:       Subsistence fisher, Orutsaramuit tribal member,

Calista and Bethel Native Corporation shareholder

Co-chair Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working group.

Partner in Kuskokwim Wilderness Adventures

What to do?   Our Kuskokwim King Salmon are in decline and have been for several years.   Not enough are making it to the escapement grounds.  Last week the co-chairs of the Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group and others held the first of several work sessions to discuss the seriousness of losing our Kuskokwim King Salmon. I am one of several co-chairs of this volunteer group.

We went over the 20 recommendations presented at our August 28 meeting regarding management of Kuskokwim Kings and other salmon species.  These came from subsistence fishers. With out our full board we could only discuss what kind of restrictions we could support going into the 2014 season.    I have listed the 20 recommendations below.  REMEMBER:   These are recommendations from users and communities along the river.    Some would require a change in regulation and are not applicable for the 2014 season.  In the next few weeks  lets discuss what is possible for 2014.

We need to go public with the plight of the kings and It is clear after watching what is happening on the Yukon, in Norton Sound and other areas that there are not enough Kings to keep fishing them without restrictions.  We can point to By-catch, point to boats on tributaries, environmental issues, global warning but we have to point at ourselves too.   Future meetings are planned by KSMWG and tribal organizations, stay tuned and please get involved.

The population on the coast and on the Kuskokwim River has grown  and we can no longer take the Kings we usually process.  WHY?   We are fishing them into extinction.     There is too much pressure on our Kuskokwim Kings and restrictions are going to be necessary.  Input from users on the coast, middle river and upriver is needed.

The last few years I have had to ask my family to not come from Anchorage and elsewhere for the Kings. Maybe silvers I say.    I have asked my family here to put up more chums and reds and less Kings on our drying racks.     It is heart breaking because we are a sharing people.  And I am asking you to come up with other solutions that are realistic and doable. We all have a stake here and must do something   before the resource is lost.

Can you get behind smaller mesh,  closures with windows of opportunity, looking to the future of restricting length of nets,  limiting number of Kings taken per family,   What are you willing to do to save our Kuskokwim Kings ?  Contact me at bev@kuskofish.com or talk to any of our KSMWG members in your community.

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RECOMMENDATIONS from subsistence fishers. (I repeat some are not possible for 2014 and some just won’t work and some need regulation change )

  1. Starting the season closed to Chinook salmon fishing and then open when the data tells us that the abundance is adequate.
  2. Starting the season on a fishing schedule.
  3. Gear Restrictions
    1. Mesh Size
    2. Net length
    3. Depth
    4. Set Net Only
    5. Dip nets
  4. Addressing Quality of Escapement
  5. Voluntary Reductions
  6. Attaining more than an advisory role
  7. Limiting to Federally Qualified Users (rural residents)
  8. Addressing Choke Points
  9. Permits Systems
  10. Permit System for Bethel only
  11. Close king salmon fishing for  5 years.
  12. Stop all commercial fishing on the Kuskokwim
  13. Establishing quotas base on a percent of the number of fish present.
  14. Schedules for the Lower River Only
  15. Combine a fishing schedule with gear restrictions.
  16. Tier II
  17. Establish Amounts Necessary for Subsistence (ANS) for the Lower, Middle, and Upper River rather than one ANS for the whole river.
  18. Adopt an Optimum Escapement Goal
  19. Establish an Inriver Goal
  20. Use of the Elders Fishery

Of the recommendations from subsistence users below are a list of recommendation which are possible for the 2014 season under existing regulations.

  1. Starting the season closed to Chinook salmon fishing and then open when the data tells us that the abundance is adequate.
  2. Starting the season on a fishing schedule.
  3. Tributary closures
  4. Rolling closures
  5. 6’’ mesh size restriction used once chum and sockeye are abundant
  6. Voluntary Reductions
  7. Limiting to Federally Qualified Users (rural residents)*Possible only with a Federal Special Action (“Federal take-over”)*
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