AD Main Menu

Kuskokwim River residents and fish managers agree to work together on subsistence catch

Lisa Demer

In a meeting that stretched four and a half hours Wednesday, a Kuskokwim River salmon advisory group agreed to set aside proposals to declare “no confidence” in Alaska's subsistence and commercial fishing managers and instead work within the system.

At issue are diminished salmon runs, early-season restrictions and upriver drying racks and smokehouses still lacking a supply of salmon for winter.

The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group -- a unique organization that includes subsistence fishermen, commercial fishermen, a fish buyer, elders and others -- advises government fish managers.

One of the members, LaMont Albertson, who represents the Kusko sportfishing community, had proposed the no-confidence votes to get officials’ attention. He said the state Department of Fish and Game’s subsistence division should be fighting for residents who depend on Kuskokwim salmon, but it isn’t.

“People are not meeting subsistence needs. Schools are shutting down. Our villages are drying up and going away,” said Albertson, who is a retired school principal from Aniak and still has a home there as well as in Anchorage.

He and other group members decided to instead seek help from the state commercial fishing division in crafting a proposal for the state Board of Fisheries that would help get more fish to residents of villages mid- and upriver.

Jeff Regnart, director of the commercial fishing division, said his office is there to help.

“You just have to ask,” he said.

Meanwhile, the federal Office of Subsistence Management is reviewing requests for federal managers to take over the river to ensure people can meet subsistence needs, the group was told.