Alaska Fisheries Management

Alaska Department of Fish and Game–Yukon Fisheries Management Area Information

Pursuant to the Yukon River Salmon Act of 2000 (U.S.), “The state of Alaska Department of Fish and Game shall be the responsible management entity for the United States for the purposes of any agreement with Canada regarding management of salmon stocks originating from the Yukon River in Canada.” The State of Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) sets policy and direction for management of the state’s fishery resources. The policy of the ADF&G is to manage the salmon runs to the extent possible for maximum sustained yield, unless otherwise directed by regulation and to allow for spawning escapement and Canadian harvest shares as written into the language of the Agreement.fishwheels_560

Management of the Yukon River salmon fishery is complex because of the current inability to determine stock specific abundance and run timing, overlapping multi-species runs, the increasing efficiency of fishing gear, allocation issues, and the immense size of the Yukon River drainage. Albeit, state and federal agencies, Native organizations, and fisher groups operate various projects, such as aerial and ground surveys, test fisheries, tributary and mainstem sonar, tagging, tower and weir projects and harvest survey programs to obtain information necessary to assess salmon runs.

Beginning in 1999, a lack of consistency between state and federal laws resulted in dual management of subsistence fisheries within the Alaskan portion of the Yukon River drainage based on distinctions between state and federal lands. The State of Alaska statutes provide a subsistence priority for all Alaskan residents outside of established non-subsistence use areas within Alaska. However, federal law under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) requires, on federal lands, only rural residents are privileged by the subsistence priority when there are not enough fish for other uses.

man-by-fish-strips-016Due to this divergence, federal jurisdiction now applies to applicable waters (i.e. waters flowing through and/or occurring on federal lands) to ensure the subsistence priority for federally-qualified rural residents. As part of a dual management system, state (Alaska Department of Fish and Game, ADF&G) and federal (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USFWS) authorities work together to share and collect assessment information and issue joint news releases to inform the public of subsistence management actions. The USFWS strives to ensure all federally-qualified users of the salmon resource have priority on federal lands, while ADF&G strives to provide for all subsistence users within subsistence-use areas of the Alaskan portion of the drainage. Tribal councils and non-profit organizations, such as YRDFA, AVCP and TCC, further serve to represent tribal interests, as well as fishers and local community users in Alaska.

In-season evaluations of salmon runs (such as evaluating abundance indices from test fisheries, passage estimates from sonar and mark-recapture projects, and listening to Yukon River fishers via YRDFA’s weekly in-season teleconferences) allow managers to adjust pre-season management plans, if needed, based on run timing and/or abundance. In a strong run year, managers provide commercial harvest opportunities and may consider increasing border passage to a greater level to allow a higher spawning escapement for that year.

If in-season assessment indicates abundance to be insufficient to meet escapement objectives, management entities may consider taking further conservation measures during the fishing season, such as restricting subsistence harvests. These management actions ensure adequate numbers of fish reach spawning grounds and the agreed upon harvest shares are met (harvest shares can fall to zero for both Alaskans and Yukoners if spawning escapement objectives appear to be unachievable).

educational-exchange_billTo ensure the general public is provided an opportunity to participate in the state’s regulatory process, local Fish and Game Advisory Committees were established. These committees meet in a public forum to discuss fish and wildlife issues in order to make recommendations to the Boards of Fisheries and Game. The BOF takes into account these recommendations, and all public comments, when considering proposals to change fisheries regulations. The Federal Subsistence Board was also created to ensure priority is given to rural residents on federal lands for subsistence uses of fish and wildlife.

Ten Regional Advisory Councils were created under the Federal Subsistence Board with community and regional leaders as members. The role of reviewing, evaluating and making recommendations concerning regulations, policies and allocation plans, gives a chance for those directly affected by federal jurisdiction, namely Alaskans relying on resources on federal lands, to be included in the decision-making process.