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Alaska fisheries managers: Early-run Yukon king salmon off limits

Alaska Dispatch

Following a disastrous year for king salmon runs on Alaska's Yukon River, fishery managers have decided, months earlier than usual, to announce fishing prohibitions for 2013. The fishing ban will apply to the first wave of king salmon headed up the river from the Bering Sea. Generally, two or three “pulses” of the fish make their way to spawning grounds beginning in late Spring and start tapering off mid-summer.

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, emergency closures have restricted access to the first wave or “pulse” of kings in three of the last four years. But having a firm “off limits” decision this early in the year is a new tactic. Alaska is bound through an international agreement with Canada to make sure enough Canadian-bound salmon get across the border, a goal Alaska has not reliably achieved in recent years.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries issued the new regulation during a meeting in Anchorage earlier this month. Once signed into law, it will be a permanent decision, up for review again in three years.

How best to manage the fish runs is a constant source of strife for all levels of users and managers. In 2012, with low king salmon returns experienced across much of the state, it came to a head when Alaska Native villagers refused to comply with continued closures, citing an inherent right to access traditional resources and food. Dozens of fishermen received citations. The restoration of indigenous hunting and fishing rights went on to become a significant issue at the 2012 Alaska Federation of Natives convention.