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Lower Kuskokwim Transfers From Federal To State Management

Gillnet fishing on the Kuskokwim River near Aniak.
Dave Cannon

Federal control of the lower Kuskokwim River will end at 12:01 a.m. on July 22. At that time, the lower Kuskokwim River subsistence salmon fishery, from the mouth upriver to Aniak, will transfer from federal jurisdiction under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state jurisdiction under the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Manager Boyd Blihovde announced his decision on July 21 at the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group meeting. He said that the decision was based on data indicating that the king, or chinook, salmon run has almost entirely passed Bethel.

“Chinook salmon trickling through still, but not as much of a conservation concern, certainly. I think we’ve done a good job collectively here to do what we can to protect them,” Blihovde said.

Blihovde said that the refuge made the decision to lift federal jurisdiction in consultation with the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Blihovde declared federal management of the lower Kuskokwim subsistence salmon fishery on June 1 to conserve king salmon.

As the salmon species arrived, low chum salmon numbers amplified conservation concerns. The Kuskokwim chum salmon run is the lowest on record since at least 2008, which is when the Bethel Test Fishery began its current method of data collection. Blihovde said that the refuge will continue to monitor the chum run. State data shows that about 94% of the chum run has passed Bethel.

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