June 24, 2019 (Bethel) – In an effort to help preserve a highly valued resource, Alaska Wildlife Troopers made their presence known during recent Chinook, or “king,” salmon subsistence fishery openings on the Kuskokwim River. Over the course of four fishery openings – on June 12, June 15, June 19, and June 22 – scores of fishers were contacted, a few dozen warnings issued, and more than 30 citations issued.
Fishery participants responded to the wildlife troopers’ presence and messaging by shoring up issues that had led to warnings or citations. The result: Fewer citations were issued during each subsequent opening, with the final opening on June 22 resulting in no citations issued.
“Chinook salmon are a critical food source for people leading a subsistence way of life along the Kuskokwim River,” said Captain Rex Leath, Commander of AWT Northern Detachment.
“Weak Chinook returns in recent years have led to conservative management strategies intended to preserve stocks and sustain future runs. We are pleased that, with a little bit of education and a relatively small number of citations given, resource users uniformly came into compliance with the regulations.”
While violations ranged from fishing during closed periods to failure to carry life vests on boats – drowning is a major public safety concern in Southwest Alaska – most were related to regulations managing net lengths and mesh sizes. All drift or set gillnets in the subsistence fisheries are limited to 6-inch or smaller mesh sizes and may not exceed 45 meshes in depth. Net length regulations are based on the portion of river upon which they’re set with limits specified at 50 fathoms (300 feet) and 25 fathoms (150 feet) depending on location.