Kuskokwim residents are largely giving their support to another summer of fishing restrictions, but they want to see some things about last year’s conservation measures changed.
The king salmon forecast for the Kuskokwim River looks similar to 2017’s low run, and federal managers are requesting taking over management of the river and imposing the same restrictions as last season. That would mean closing the Kuskokwim to king salmon fishing from June 12 through August 30 and limiting fishing to subsistence users.
The majority of Kuskokwim residents who attended a public hearing last week on the proposed restrictions spoke in favor of them, but many had different ideas on how, when, and in what way they should be implemented.
Some wanted the restrictions to cover a shorter time span. The Akiak Native Community wants the restrictions to end on July 1; Kwethluk wants them to last through the month. A few individual residents proposed dates in between. Kwethluk also proposed a community allocation program for salmon and requested that the Kwethluk River be closed to sport fishing.
The Bethel ONC tribe advocated for reinstating the designated fishermen’s program similar to what the river saw in 2015, but only for subsistence users who maintain traditional cold-smoking smokehouses. ONC believes that having designated fishermen would reduce fishing competition during openings. ONC would also like subsistence users to be able to use four-inch mesh gillnets early in the season to harvest whitefish and other small species. Kings would be released.
Other ideas included closing non-spawning salmon tributaries to fishing and more measures to reduce the number of kings caught incidentally in the ocean by trawl fleets.