ADF&G releases salmon outlook, management strategy
The 2013 salmon outlook and management strategy for commercial fishing in Kuskokwim Bay and Kuskokwim River by Alaska Department of Fish and Game was released May 30
The Kuskokwim Bay has no formal forecast for salmon returns, reads the press release. Broad expectations are developed based on parent-year escapements and recent year trends. It is expected that king and sockeye salmon harvest in 2013 will be lower than in 2012 due to king salmon conservation measures. Anticipated available surpluses for commercial harvest are expected to range from 1,500 to 6,000 king; 60,000 to 110,000 sockeye; 60,000 to 130,000 chum; and 40,000 to 80,000 coho salmon. Harvest may be affected by salmon abundance, participation, market conditions, and processor capacity.
Kuskokwim Bay Management Strategy
Subsistence Fishery: ADF&G will be in contact with Kuskokwim Bay subsistence fishermen to determine if subsistence needs will be met. Subsistence fishing will be allowed seven days per week prior to the commercial salmon fishing season. Once the commercial fishing season begins, subsistence fishery closures will be 16 hours before, during, and six hours after each commercial fishing period.
Commercial Fishery: King Salmon Conservation - In 2012, king salmon abundance across Alaska was below average. The escapement in the Goodnews River drainage was below the established escapement goals and the Kanektok River had a weak return. The king salmon returns in the Kanektok and Goodnews river drainages are expected to be below average in 2013. Also, given the late and cold spring, king salmon run timing is expected to be late. With poor run performance in recent years, king salmon conservation is warranted in the District 4 (Quinhagak) and District 5 (Goodnews Bay) commercial fisheries.
District 4: ADF&G intends to meet with Quinhagak residents prior to the commercial fishing season. The District 4 commercial fishery will be managed in accordance with the District 4 Salmon Management Plan 5 ACC 07.367. It is anticipated the District 4 commercial fishery will likely open in early July. ADF&G will closely monitor subsistence harvest in Quinhagak to assess relative run abundance and run timing. Based on this information, the first commercial opening may be earlier or later than anticipated. A coho salmon management directed fishery is anticipated to occur, late July through August given adequate run strength.
District 5: ADF&G intends to meet with Goodnews Bay area residents prior to the commercial fishing season. It is anticipated the District 5 commercial fishery will likely open in early July. ADF&G will closely monitor subsistence harvest in Goodnews Bay and Platinum to assess relative run abundance and run timing. Based on this information, the first commercial opening may be earlier or later than anticipated. A coho salmon management directed fishery is anticipated to occur, late July through August given adequate run strength.
Sport Fishery: Sport fishing daily bag and possession limits for king salmon have been reduced, by Emergency Order 3-KS-03-13, to one fish over 20 inches in length in all waters draining into Kuskokwim Bay south of the south bank of Warehouse Creek and north of Cape Newenham. The Kuskokwim Bay king salmon sport-fishing season will close by regulation on July 26.
Inseason Assessment and Research
Inseason indicators of salmon run strength include weir escapement projects, verbal subsistence catch reports, commercial catch statistics, and aerial escapement surveys. Weirs will be operated on the Kanektok and the Middle Fork Goodnews rivers to monitor salmon escapements and collect biological data. The Kanektok River weir will cease operations in mid-August to address operational concerns caused by high water events common in August and September.
The 2013 chinook salmon forecast is for a return between of 160,000 to 240,000 fish. Broad expectations are developed based on parent-year escapements and recent year trends for sockeye, chum, and coho salmon abundance, which are expected to be similar to 2012. Anticipated available surpluses for commercial harvest will range from 0 to 3,000 chinook; 5,000 to 20,000 sockeye; 100,000 to 200,000 chum; and 60,000 to 120,000 coho salmon.
Kuskokwim River Management Strategy
In January 2013, a new management plan was adopted by the Alaska Board of Fisheries. ADF&G will follow guidelines outlined in the new Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Plan 5 ACC 07.365, to the extent possible, to meet escapement goals, provide for subsistence use, and allow commercial fishing on available harvestable surpluses.
Subsistence Fishery: Subsistence fishing closures are six hours before, during, and three hours after each commercial fishing period. In District 1, when one subdistrict is open to commercial fishing, subsistence fishing will be allowed in the majority of the other subdistrict. During closed periods, subsistence fishing for species other than salmon will be allowed with gillnets not exceeding 60 feet in length and a mesh size of four inches or less.
District 1 Commercial Fishery: As directed by the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Plan, a commercial fishery shall be prosecuted by emergency order if inseason information indicates a run strength that is large enough to provide for a harvestable surplus and a reasonable opportunity for subsistence uses and for nonsubsistence fisheries. Processing capacity may limit commercial openings in District 1 to Subdistrict 1-B openings. Commercial openings may be announced when no large scale buyers are available to provide opportunity for permit holders operating as catcher/sellers or catcher/processors. Contact the ADF&G office in Bethel for information about catcher/seller or catcher/processor programs.
All commercial fishing periods will be limited to gillnets with six-inch or smaller mesh size. As in 2012, there is the potential for opening the Lower Section of Subdistrict 1-B for two additional hours during commercial openings, dependent on salmon abundance and processor capacity.
Chinook salmon abundance, escapement, and subsistence needs may limit commercial harvest of chum and sockeye salmon in late June and early July. A commercial fishery directed at coho salmon is anticipated in late July and August.
Inseason Assessment and Research
Inseason indicators of salmon run strength include the Bethel Test Fishery, subsistence catch reports, commercial catch statistics, aerial surveys, weirs, and additional tributary escapement monitoring projects operated by an assortment of partnerships between State, Federal, and Tribal organizations. Staff from Orutsararmiut Native Council will survey Bethel Area subsistence fishermen to assess salmon run timing and abundance.
For information contact ADF&G, Commercial Fisheries in Bethel: Travis Elison 543-2709, Aaron Tiernan 543-2331, Colton Lipka 543-2931, Davin Taylor 543-4477, or ADF&G, Sport Fish Division: John Chythlook 543-1677 (Bethel), or 459-7361 (Fairbanks)