A group of fishermen in Quinhagak has formed an organization to revitalize commercial salmon fishing in Kuskokwim Bay. Their group is called the Independent Fishermen of Quinhagak Cooperative.
On Monday, June 29, there will be a 12-hour commercial opening in Kuskokwim Bay from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fishermen are limited to 6-inch mesh or less. It’s the area’s first commercial opening in five years.
Only commercial fishermen who’ve been approved by the co-op board can participate in the fishery. In a press release, the co-op said that the buyer, E&E Foods, will turn away fishermen who have not been approved by the co-op. The board has approved 70 fishermen to participate and has limited the cooperative's eligibility to fishermen residing in four nearby villages: Quinhagak, Goodnews Bay, Platinum, and Eek. A processor ship will be anchored in Goodnews Bay to buy salmon from the approved fishermen the four villages. A tender will be traveling to Quinhagak, where it will only buy salmon from the fishermen of that community.
The Kuskokwim Bay commercial fishery shut down in 2016 when Coastal Villages Region Fund halted its processing operations. Recently, CVRF donated all its processing equipment in Quinhagak to the City of Quinhagak. Among the items are two dock cranes, a fork lift, an ice boat, and two ice machines.
Subsistence fishing will close in Kuskokwim Bay for 24 hours, from midnight on June 29 to midnight on June 30, to allow for the commercial opening. The opening is coming at a time when salmon returns to the Kuskokwim River are lower than projected, and could just meet the lower of the state’s escapement goals.
State biologist Nick Smith says that the timing of the commercial opening makes it unlikely that any Kuskokwim king salmon would be harvested in the fishery. Goodnews Bay sits near the Goodnews River; Quinhagak is near the Kanektok River.
“I would assume that on June 29, any king salmon that’s hanging around the mouth of the Kanektok is going to the Kanektok, and any fish that is Kuskokwim River-bound is making its way up the Kuskokwim River,” Smith said.
State genetic data indicates that red and chum salmon caught in Kuskokwim Bay fishing districts are also bound for the Goodnews and Kanektok Rivers.