My name is Serena I am the executive director of the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association. I grew up in St. Mary’s and I am a subsistence user.
The Yukon River is home to more than 50 tribal communities spanning the state with 9 distinct native cultures. All of which depend on salmon.
With the abrupt decline in chum salmon in 2019, the commercial fisheries were closed for chum and the subsistence needs were not met which was followed by complete closures in 2021 and 2022. The 100% loss of the subsistence harvest of our salmon for the past 2 years is affecting every single person on the Yukon River; from the young children who are not being taught our traditional ways of living to the elders who cannot pass on their knowledge.
For over 40 years we have voiced our concerns in regard to the intercept fishery in Area M and we have grown tired which is resulting in anger and distrust in the management system.
Area M is a documented contributor to the decline of western Alaska chum. We cannot control the climate, the warming water, or the diseases in the fish, but we are asking you to take action to address the factor under human control. It is the State of Alaska’s constitutional and statutory obligation to 1. provide for escapement. 2. Provide a subsistence opportunity. On the Yukon River, neither of your primary responsibilities is being met.
At the AYK and at this meeting, board members challenged us to negotiate with Area M fisheries and we provided the opportunity to meet. It is entirely unfair to place the burden on us; AYK subsistence communities, to negotiate with multi-million-dollar industries and produce solutions to a 40-year problem.
We ask the Board of Fisheries to do your job to put regulations in place. We are at a pivotal point and the Yukon River people cannot wait another season for more research to answer questions because the threat to our salmon is happening now. The Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association supports proposal 140.