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Another blow to Yukon River subsistence salmon fishing

Suzanna Caldwell

Continued weak king salmon runs have cancelled more subsistence fishing periods in Western Alaska.

The state cancelled scheduled subsistence fishing across much of the lower Yukon Delta Sunday, specifically in district one and the northern portion of the coastal district, in an effort to conserve kings. Gillnet mesh in the southern portion of the coastal district was also restricted to 6-inches or less.

The Pilot Station sonar counter, located 120 miles upstream of the Yukon River mouth, counted approximately 19,800 king salmon by Friday. That's well below the historical average of 75,000 fish by that date and still solidly below the average of 36,900 for years when the run is late.

Residents in Western Alaska revolted last week over the subsistence closures. More than 30 nets and 1,000 pounds of fish were seized by Alaska State Troopers in an effort to quash the dissidents. Residents worried about their livelihoods are demanding action from lawmakers. Som of them say they are waiting to see if king salmon runs pick up as water temperatures rise.  Coastal sea ice went out very late this season.

In Southcentral Alaska poor king runs cancelled sport and commercial fishing in and near the Kenai River. The commercial east side set net fishery in Cook Inlet was set to open today, but closed in an effort to conserve kings -- a small portion of the set netters overall catch.

The state will notify fishermen in the lower Yukon Wednesday on possible openings and closures in the area.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com

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