Yukon River King Salmon Management Plan Revision Kicks into High Gear
By Jason Hale, Communications Director
It’s great when people agree, and particularly special when those people are fisheries stakeholders from across the Yukon River drainage and they are talking about king salmon management. During the recent King Salmon Management Plan Revision Meeting, while there was disagreement on quite a few topics, there was agreement on a central point: pulse protection as a preferred, fair, and effective management tool. Draft plan components are being developed based on the outcomes of that meeting, and they will be presented to the public for comment in coming weeks to further set the direction of the revised plan.
Initial Stakeholder Meeting
On January 11-12, representatives of inter-tribal groups (AVCP, TCC, and CATG), Regional Advisory Councils to the Federal Subsistence Board (Yukon-Kuskokwim, Western, and Eastern), the Yukon River Panel, CDQ, processors, YRDFA, USFWS, and ADF&G gathered in Anchorage to begin discussions on what the King Salmon Management Plan should include. Stakeholders from the river agreed that the management action of choice for equitably restricting harvest is pulse closures, similar to those that were used in 2009 and 2011.
However, there was not consensus on how or when those closures should be instituted. Some said the first pulse of salmon should always be protected, regardless of the annual pre-season run projection, to rebuild stocks and meet international escapement goals. Others said half of that pulse should always be protected, and the entire pulse should be protected if the pre-season run projection indicated a need. A third contingent felt that first pulse closures should only be implemented in years that subsistence needed to be restricted, and otherwise fishers should be allowed to spread out and maximize their harvests by fishing on that first pulse. Everyone seemed to agree that the second and third pulse should be restricted as needed based on in-season assessment of the run.
A central theme throughout this discussion was quality of escapement. Some stakeholders expressly stated that pulse closures would result in more large fish, especially large females, reaching the spawning grounds, and stressed that this would be critical to the future health of the run. Others argued that the recent mesh size change to 7.5 inch mesh nets was adopted specifically to address quality of escapement, that it’s working, and pulse closures should only be used to increase the numbers of fish on the spawning grounds.
Other topics that were discussed passionately, but did not gain universal support, included: protection of early fish, sale of incidentally caught king salmon, mandatory subsistence harvest reporting, concurrent subsistence and commercial periods, and mesh depth of nets.
The contract biologist–Bill Bechtol, formerly of ADF&G and veteran of many resource plan revisions–hired to assist with this project is now working with a steering committee from the January meeting to write possible draft plan components. These will be presented to the public for comment during the next couple of months. Hopefully the public can shed some light on which approaches are most sensible, effective, and desirable.
Specifically, draft plan components will be sent to every Tribal Council and ADF&G Advisory Committee in the Alaskan portion of the Yukon River drainage, along with other key stakeholders. They will also be presented by YRDFA staff at a number of upcoming meetings, including:
– YRDFA Annual Meeting (February 13-16)
– YRDFA Elders Council (February 14)
– YK RAC (February 23)
– WI RAC (February 29)
– EI RAC (February 29-March 1)
– AVCP State of the Salmon (March 6-8)
– Panel (March 19-23)
– YDFDA board meeting (March 28)
– Summer Season Preparedness Meeting (April 4)
By April 10, YRDFA will submit a placeholder proposal to the Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) for the revised plan. Then, throughout the summer, Bill Bechtol will work with the steering committee to incorporate public comments, narrow the revised plan to the most workable components, and send it to other experts for review.
In the fall the final draft plan will again make the rounds for public input, with the hopes of completing the revision by mid-November and submitting it to the BOF for consideration at its January 2013 meeting.
For more information, contact Jason Hale at 907-746-7355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the fall of 2011, YRDFA embarked on a process to address the low king salmon runs in the Yukon River. Following a resolution from the YRDFA board of directors to work on a unified king salmon conservation plan, YRDFA secured funds from the State of Alaska to work on the king salmon management plan.