Fish board to look at Yukon kings problem

Posted: Monday, January 25, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Problems with Yukon River king salmon will be the big issue this week when the Alaska Board of Fisheries meets in Fairbanks.

The board will consider proposals for getting more king salmon, and larger fish, into the Yukon River and to the spawning grounds in Alaska and Canada. The six-day meeting is set to begin Tuesday.

It is the job of the seven-person fish board to set seasons, bag limits and other rules for fishing in Alaska waters.

The federal government last week declared the 2008 and 2009 Yukon River king salmon runs disasters. Mike Smith, subsistence resource director for the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks, said the conference hopes some conservation efforts will be implemented.

TCC represents dozens of villages on the upper and middle Yukon and Tanana rivers.

Smith said many fishermen in those villages report that both the size of the Yukon king run and the size of the fish themselves are getting smaller.

The Yukon king run has been in decline for several years. Unprecedented restrictions were placed on both subsistence and commercial fishermen this past season in an attempt to get more fish to their Canadian spawning grounds, as required in an international treaty between the U.S. and Canada.

The strategy worked, but it came with a heavy price in the form of a greatly reduced subsistence harvest and no commercial fishery. A local advisory committee is proposing a reduction in the mesh size of nets used to catch fish, restrictions on how deep nets can be placed, restrictions on what kind of nets can be used and restrictions when and how long fishermen can fish.

The board has rejected similar proposals in the past, but given the state of the Yukon River kings things could be different this time around.

"They almost have to do something now," said Virgil Umphenour, who sits on both the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee and Eastern Interior Regional Advisory Council.

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