At the January 12th meeting in Fairbanks the Board of Fish reviewed 16 proposals to change regulations in how Fisheries are managed on the Kuskokwim River. The Board listened to hours of public testimony, reviewed recommendations from ADF&G Advisory Committees, the Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group, Tribal Councils, their own Staff, and even an “ad-hoc” BOF Kuskokwim Committee formed at the meeting: before reaching any decisions.
At the meeting, I was impressed by not only the level of representation from Kuskokwim stakeholders, but also by their thoughtful comments, and willingness to find solutions to the problems facing us.
We have provide background on each of these proposal over the last few months so I won’t go into detail here, and instead just provide the results of the meeting on the key proposals we have been discussing.
For Proposals – 92, 93, 94, and 96 the Board found a common solution in RC-83 (RC stands for record copy) to address the “intent” of each of these proposals; which was to pass more Chinook salmon through the Bethel area: thereby providing greater escapement into headwater tributaries, and more reasonable fishing opportunity for folks in the Middle and Upper River. The seemingly simple change to the Departments Kuskokwim Salmon Management Plan identified in RC-83 (see attached); to not allow subsistence salmon fishing to begin until June 12th could potentially make all the difference for conservation, and fishermen up-river with the least amount of impact on all subsistence fishermen.
The graphic below (prepared by ADF&G) shows the June 12th opening date relative to Chinook passage at the Bethel Test Fishery. On June 12th, in an average run timing year approximately 14% of the run has passed; on a late year only 5%; and on an early year as much as 31%. This closure protects those early run fish that we now know are migrating to headwater tributaries to spawn, and may be contributing more to the total run than previously thought.
On the issue of permits (Proposal 95 and 222) – the Board chose to table the two proposals, to be taken up at a later date. The Board recognized the lack of agreement between the various Advisory Groups and in the public testimony regarding the need for, and if necessary the type of permit system that would work best for everybody. The Board requested that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Subsistence Division work with stakeholders throughout the region in the coming months to see if any agreement could be reached. So…stay tuned there will be more discussions on this matter in the near future.
Personally, from this observers perspective the meeting was a success for everybody up and down the river. With the biggest beneficiary being the remarkable resource we have in Chinook salmon: one that with only sound, conservative management will be available for future generations.