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ONC Reports That Many In Middle Kuskokwim Haven't Reached Salmon Harvest Goals

Drying salmon strips

Most subsistence users in the Middle Kuskokwim did not get the amount of salmon they were hoping for this season. That’s according to fish surveys conducted by the Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC). They talked with nearly 80 fish camps from early June through last week about their experience fishing on the Kuskokwim River this season.

Fish Biologist Janessa Esquible says that about a third of the camps she surveyed did not harvest the number of kings they wanted. The camps pointed to the river’s tight restrictions designed to protect king, or Chinook, salmon that returned in low numbers.

“Keeping in mind that not all fish camps harvest Chinook salmon, there were probably a handful of fish camps that said that they were not targeting Chinook salmon for a variety of reasons, including conservation concerns,” Esquible said.

Because of those concerns, some people supported the restrictions on the Kuskokwim and want to see them continue. Others opposed them and wanted to see more fishing earlier in the season's drier weather after several harvests spoiled.

Camps also had concerns about managers holding openings with 24 hours or less advance notice.

“We did have a few fish camps that said, ‘We didn’t get enough notice, and because of that we weren’t even able to go fishing,’” said Esquible.

Even if some camps didn’t get their fill of kings, most did of chum, and about half did of reds.

“And again, because we finished our surveys last week," said Esquible, "people have gotten closer to achieving any one of these three targeted salmon harvest goals.”

There’s still one salmon species that’s only starting to come up the river: silvers. Because of the lower than desired harvests, a couple families surveyed are planning to target these silvers and dry them into strips.

“Even through they’re not as oily, they said adding a bit of olive oil into the mix and that they had a good success last season and that the strips came out really tasty,” said Esquible.

Throughout the summer ONC presented comments, like the ones heard here from subsistence families, to fishery managers to help guide decision making along the Kuskokwim River.

Anna Rose MacArthur is the KYUK News Director. She has worked at KYUK since 2015 and previously worked at KNOM in Nome, Alaska.