King salmon crisis to be addressed at symposium

With king salmon season restricted again, fishery managers, scientists address public concern

A pile of king salmon caught in the Fish Creek Pond in June, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Correction: This article first appeared with a headline which had the wrong date for the salmon symposium. The salmon symposium is Monday, not Sunday.

 

With king salmon sport fishing put off until June to protect struggling stocks, local anglers and subsistence users have questions.

They’ll get a chance to ask those Monday at Territorial Sportsman’s 2018 Salmon Symposium at Centennial Hall.

It’s the second year in a row Territorial Sportsman has held the meeting. Fish and Game managers and scientists will be on hand to explain how and why fishing is restricted this year.

“It’s basically been an effort to help get information on what’s going on with salmon research, king salmon in particular now, by the various agencies,” Territorial Sportsman President Matt Robus said.

The symposium this year will have more of a focus on northern Southeast, Robus added, where two river systems — the Taku and Chilkat — are in particularly bad shape.

The Alaska Department of Fish and game has projected record-low king salmon returns for several Southeast rivers, including the Taku River, where ADFG expects only 4,700 Chinook to spawn. Low returns on the Taku have been the norm for three years now, prompting conservation measures.

Another large river system in northern Southeast, the Chilkat River, near Haines, has also experienced low returns in recent years. Only 1,030 Chinook salmon are expected to return to the Chilkat this year, below the lower-bound goal of 1,750, set by ADFG.

Conservation measures put in place to battle the trends have shut down sport fishermen until mid-June and forced cuts to commercial troller allocations.

Territorial Sportsman puts on an annual king salmon derby in August, the Golden North. Last year, king salmon fishing was shut down during derby weekend, forcing Territorial Sportsman to switch the derby to coho only.

The derby was still a success, Robus said, but it’s painful for fishermen not to have access to king salmon. Even so, he’s more concerned about the future of the stock

Territorial Sportsman has encouraged ADFG to take whatever conservation measures they think are necessary, he said.

“We bought into the conservation measures. We understand that everybody is going to need to go through some pain here in order for those stocks to recover,” Robus said.

Last year, concerned locals packed the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. The venue was moved across the street to Centennial Hall this year.

“We just want people to be informed on what’s happening, what work we’re doing and kind of the process in these management decisions and where we’re at as far as wild Southeast Chinook,” ADFG biologist Dan Teske said.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at kgullufsen@juneauempire.com and 523-2228. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.


Know & Go

What: 2018 Salmon Symposium hosted by Territorial Sportsman

When: 6-9 p.m. Monday

Where: Centennial Hall, ballroom No. 1

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