PO Box 2898 Palmer, AK 99645
Tel: 907-272-3141 Toll free: 877-999-8566
Fax: 907-272-3142 E-mail: email@example.com
Greetings from the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association!
Here is a summary of the 6th 2021 Yukon River Salmon In-Season Management Teleconference held Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Call lasted 199 minutes. 101 callers participated.
Background: Yukon River salmon management teleconferences are held annually every Tuesday in June, July, and August for managers and fishers throughout the Yukon River drainage to discuss fishing conditions and management strategies in real time as the salmon run is occurring. Funded by the Office of Subsistence Management and the Yukon River Panel.
Media present: KYUK-Bethel, KZPA-Ft. Yukon
Political Representatives participating: None
Manley Hot Springs
COMMUNITY LEVEL REPORTS
Coastal District 1-Lower Yukon
Nunam Iqua: Joseph Afcan (currently living in Wasilla because of no fishing). I am hoping someone can make a report from Nunam Iqua.
Alakanuk: John – Same as last week. Water is high, no fishing. 1 small pike with 4” on a side slough. No fish on any racks, unless someone received a fish from fish and game and have it hanging.
Emmonak: Billy – Conditions are the same as Alakanuk. Just listening in to see if there any changes.
Allen – I talked to a few locals and one caught a 100 chums and another caught 80-90 chums. Weather is starting to lighten up. I heard some fishers from Numan traveled up to get crab. The pollock, people from Numan and Alakanuk caught some pollock long lining. I think they are eating our out migration of salmon. Someone should monitor this. Are the pollock moving closer over here? No fish on the drying racks here in Alakanuk other than from the people who went up north.
Christine – First time I am attending this call. I got this information from Senator Dan Sullivan’s office. I called him this morning asking him to declare subsistence disaster for my people up and down the Yukon. I don’t normally cry but this morning I am crying for fish. It is hurting me to see me and my family members, my people up and down the Yukon not being able to get my fish. There are all these factors, and theories of why they are not coming in. I have been saying sorry to the fish, what did we do to make you not come back in because we are people who live in one with the sea and that is how we sustain ourselves through the winter. I asked ADFG is we can rod and reel and they said we have to let the salmon go. I can’t even get one fish. I can’t even sneak and fish because it is not fair to everyone else. Even my Elders say go ahead. I look up to Elders in our community. There has been a lot of SE winds this spring and it is still being SE wind. My brother tells me if we keep having this E wind, maybe they are goin to push the fish out further into the ocean. The ocean is probably changing. Need observations on climate change. This spring SE winds do not bring salmon into the Yukon. Not East winds and there has been a lot of East winds. Its been raining, raining a lot this past week with a little break. The water has been high. Its cold water, not warm water. Not like a few years ago when we had warm water and fish were floating down river. I called all over this morning, all my representatives. My mom and grandparents raised me to be an avid subsistence woman, I subsist for my family but I cannot today and it is making me cry. It is really hurting.
Chevak -John Pingayaq – I’ve been doing nothing but subsistence all my life. I process, dry and cut them as well as making sure my family has food to eat during winter. This is the first time i’ve encountered an emergency closure that affects our lives. As indigenous people we rely on the salmon. We don’t commercial fish here. We rely on 3 rivers here (names them), our ancestor lands are in this area. Alaska calls it Clarence Road Refuge. Historical and cemetery sights are in this area. We can prove it is from our ancestors. We rely on every source of subsistence food in this area. It includes the birds and the salmon. Especially the salmon. We need to take control as native people. Especially our tribes. We are being denied our subsistence rights and we have to do something about it. We have to demand that we be excluded from an emergency declaration. We are unique. We are the only ones in the whole world that depends on subsistence like this. We have to have a voice. If we are going to survive in the future. These situations happen when there are studies that need to be done. Global warming has been happening for years and we are feeling it today. No tribe should be left behind. Our leaders need to sit together and discuss what is happening to our people right now. I learned from my grandfather that no matter where we came from, we are all the same people. We are not different. If something happens to one, it affects the rest of us. If we follow the rules of Alaska it will be detrimental to our tribes future. We have to live. We heavily depend on salmon. We cannot be apart of any group if we are going to be left behind. Each tribe has a right to say yes or no if our lives are going to be threatened. I have 10 fish in my camp by using 4” net and 60’. I have to determine what I need to survive for my family. And if there is an emergency opening, that would really help us. Kuskokwim is open right now. What about us? Weather conditions like this will not help us. We cannot just stay home and hope that there will be an opening. Where is the subsistence fish board? We haven’t heard anything from them. We need an emergency opening before the fish are gone.
District 2-Coastal/Lower Yukon
Mt. Village: Nita – I talked to people and no one fished. The water came up and there is no drift. No one fishing. We are patiently waiting.
St. Marys: Eric – Good to hear Chevak and Emmonak speak up. I know a lot of people in St. Marys are frustrated with not being able to fish and harvest anything. Very difficult on people. People feel lost here. As a Panel, Yukon River Panel, the question keeps on being asked to me, “when are we going to be able to fish?” Hopefully today, ADFG or USFW could tell us what is the magic number if we are going to be able to fish at all. I know we passed 100,000 at Pilot Station. I know at the coast, we are almost done with the salmon run. I hope the Fed comes with what to do for people this winter. It is very tough on our Elders. Just to let people know, July 4th we had a large amount of beluga whales, 2 pods, 20-40 whales between Pitkas point and St. Marys, searching for salmon. That was very unusual for us to see.
Christine- Emmonak – When I was listening to Eric about the magic number of fish, I think we need to redo the treaty with Canada so have lower numbers so that everybody can have fish. The fish aren’t going to wait for us. We are at the end of King season. It is what sustains us through the winter.
Pilot Station: Martin – I haven’t been giving subsistence teleconference reports this summer. I also know that YRDFA has subsistence surveyors. There is not much subsistence activity here in Pilot Station unless you have a 4” net.
Marshall: Norma – No one fishing. We are patiently waiting. No one fishing. We are patiently waiting. – This week has been chilly, high 40s low 50s. We’ve had rain all week. Baby birds are flying. Salmon berries will be ready in a week. No one has been fishing, I have not seen set nets. One person reported 10 pike in their set net. I had a comment about winds. The past couple of years there has been glacier winds and higher water, would that affect the salmon.
Nick Andrew, Jr – Tribal Citizen. Advocating for all users, coastal, lower and upper river. This year is a year that every community has felt the scarcity of king salmon, summer chum and the projection for the fall chum/silvers isn’t promising. Our state legislature, Washington delegation and the governor have remained silent. We citizens must contact our representatives to let them know that we are impacted. We are facing food insecurity this coming winter. Another detriment to our salmon crisis is the PCE – the power cost equalization. Now we are facing food insecurity, many cut offs from power and the Delta variant (covid). Call those who we elected. Email them. If we remain silent, nothing will happen. Basically, that is my input on this matter. Thank you
District 3-Coastal/Lower Yukon
Russian Mission: Basil – Happy 4th everyone. No fish counts. Water is low and dropping. Water is cold. For as much snow as we had, the water is low. There are still 4” set nets in front of town. Families are taking turns checking that net. The tribe just gave every family a 4” net. I was finishing up my surveys and it was brought to my attention that a few years ago there was a lot of trout size salmon being caught in the 4” net. That isn’t happening now, so where are they? We’ve heard about the Belugas, we’ve been watching for them. There are no salmon, bear, or sign of life on the streams across the way. My brother went down and got some whale and shared that. People were happy to taste something fresh this summer.
District 4a-Upper Yukon
Anvik: Alberta Walker – Same as last week. No one is fishing. I spoke to 10 households. No fish being caught, no smoke houses being used, water is low, no drift, raining all week. Some people are using rod and reel on the Anvik.
Ken – no big news here. Didn’t make the Anvik River spawning grounds due to weather. I’ll be waiting to hear from ADFG.
Huslia: Lisa – talked to 7 fishers and interviewed 3. Most are not fishing. One person who fished during the 5 day 6” opening caught some sheefish. Some are driving 35 miles downriver to fish for pike. People are waiting for more information.
Districts 4b & c-Upper Yukon
Galena: Howard – It’s been pretty stormy all week. Water has dropped about a foot and a half. The water temp is 45? No one is fishing.
Fred – We’ve been winding about the fishing. A lot of people are wondering what they are going to do for the winter with food prices and electricity prices going up, we are preparing for a disastrous winter. We are looking for all the help that we can get right now.
Districts 5a, b, c & d
Tanana: Stan – water is dropping. No drift. I’ve interviewed about 8 people. One is not fishing anymore. 2 more camps are going to close. The only thing that we’ve got really in Rapids is 5 camps that have some dogs from their dog teams, but they only have a few left. They don’t have great needs for fish to feed them. Even in the 4” mesh we can catch sheefish, but it doesn’t seem like there are many sheefish, or humpback white fish. There seems to be quite a lot of Cicscos? Everyone is getting enough dog food. People are wondering if there is a change of opening. People would benefit by knowing if there is no chance at all at opening, then they could go do something else.
Rampart: Janet- As far as I know, there are a couple of people who may have a 4” mesh in to get some fish. People are getting frustrated because they are not able to fish. No comments about the water. The other thing was, the law enforcement, I am not sure what they are doing on the river, I will save this for comment period.
Beaver: Rhonda – It’s cold and rainy here. Water high. Dropped a bit. No one is fishing. People are depressed. If there is a chance for an opener, I’d like to hear that.
Fort Yukon: Melanie – no report, just here to see when and if we will be able to fish this year.
Rochelle Adams – calling from Anchorage. I know no one is fishing. The water is still high, there is still a community search for a missing boater. It is depressing.
Eagle: Ruby- Not a whole lot to report. High temps – high 80s to low 90s. No rain for many weeks. Very high water conditions since breakup. No one is fishing and very few boats are in the river. Many families would like to fish for non salmon but they do not have 4” nets. They are very concerned about fall chum. Heartbeat of Eagle. Thoughts are with our Candian neighbors who are coping with very high water.
Districts 6a, b & c
Manley: Dorothy – Raining like crazy. I will have comments later.
Old Crow: Jeremy- Trondike Gwichen Gov. Water levels very low on Porcupine. Spots you can walk across on the gravel. Just put in our closure for our fishery so people have pulled nets out of the water. Chinook are starting to arrive here. Thoughts for other communities suffering. Standing together with other communities.
Stanley – water is low. There is fresh water fish in the water if anyone can afford 4” mesh. There aren’t many of them in Old Crow. There are a lot of white fish coming up the river right now. I don’t know where they are coming from, but they are in there. We are looking forward to the reports of numbers. There is smoke and fire in the area. The weather is hot.
Dawson: Natasha – Not much to report. The Klondike river has our sonar in place. We’ve had 26 Chinook pass. Yukon is starting to drop in our community. Other communities are facing threats of flooding. We are going to continue a abstain from subsistence fishing. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Alaska folks that are going through the same thing.
Mayo: Donna -I am on here because I am taking this information to my Council tomorrow. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
Whitehorse: Dennis – Yukon River Panel member and recreational fisher. Echo what my other Yukon Panel member colleagues have stated. We have heard your testimony and we will be taking this to the Panel.
Elizabeth – Water levels have surpassed the record high. Flooding is occurring all around and in Whitehorse. Several friends at Marsh Lake have flooded yards, hopefully it will stay out of their homes due to sandbagging efforts. A friend in town has a flooded basement. My Uncle, near Lake Laberge, is on flood watch and my Dad across the creek is higher, but might still get a flooded basement. The military arrived yesterday to help with the flooding prevention. Volunteers are also helping with sandbags. My brother was on the Lake just a few days ago and commented on how much drift he saw, including large trees from the flood. The weather has been hot. The temperature has reached 25C/77F to 30C/86F daily. Today it finally cooled off a little but this means more melt water. Water levels aren’t expected to peak for several more weeks.
COVID continues to be a problem. While most Yukoners are vaccinated, there is an outbreak among predominantly unvaccinated people. This includes a large proportion of children. Until recently only adults 18+ could get vaccinated. Several daycares have closed and parents are asked to keep their kids home, if they can.
Chinook are just starting to enter Canada. First Nations have started their sonars on the Klondike and Pelly Rivers. Both have counted Chinook already.
Realities are hard for fishers. It is looking like no harvest of Chinook or fall chum, which means another year without salmon for Yukoners/Canadians. We are hoping that the spawning escapement goal will be met, so that there are enough eggs in the gravel. Hopefully this will mean that we can fish in a few years, when the adults return.
Teslin: Carl – Nothing has changed. Weather has cooled a little bit, water is dropping. No one is fishing and hot weather is looking like it will continue.
Yukon River Organization Updates
Brooke Wright – Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Chairwoman: No report from the Fish Commission. We did not meet on Monday due to the holiday. Back home in Rampart. Enforcement is very high. We see them everyday. It is disappointing because we are trying to get the little fish before they disappear.
Carl Sidney – Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee Board Member: Currently we are slowed down by some of the COVID restrictions. Parents and Grandparents have young kids at home, so we are at a reduced capacity. YSSC is an advisory body created under ‘land claims’ as “the main instrument of salmon management in the Yukon”. We made our recommendation to the Minister of DFO on Yukon River management for this season and are awaiting the Minister’s response. Unfortunately, these recommendations are considered confidential until the process is complete, so we cannot share them yet. We also made parallel recommendations to Yukon First Nations for managing their salmon fisheries. Just yesterday YSSC did a press release asking fishers to plan on no Chinook harvest this year due to the poor run. We also included a poster to try and reach as many fishers as possible. You can see it on our Facebook page.
Management Reports Agenda:
(Jeff Estensen with ADFG will give a fall report as the fall season will begin on July 15 /16 in the Y-1 lower river district)
Fred West- ADF&G Yukon River Area Research Biologist – At this time ¾ of the salmon run have entered the river. They are projected to be well below escapement numbers. Lowest on record chum run at pilot. Projections are below the escapement goal. LYFT cumulative are well below average. We saw slight increase for both species at middle mouth. Water levels are dropping with minimal debris at Pilot, so that project is going well. Summer chum run is really, really small. Most projects are online now. Andreafski have seen 6 Chinook. Anvik has seen 400? Summer Chum?
Deena Jallen – ADF&G Yukon River Summer Season Manager-To get info from ADFG, Facebook Yukon River Fishing – ADFG. most recent information. YRDFA Facebook page also has good info. Toll free number 1-866-479-7387, recording with daily test fish counts, updated daily. Emmonak 949-1320, Fairbanks office ?
Numbers, looks like we do not have enough to open up fishing. Even in summer chum, the numbers are lower than the lowest year. Chinook salmon, we are not protecting enough fish to meet that magic number which is at Eagle across the border. Projection of fish entering the river, and will it meet the border goal. Looking like we will not meet that goal with any mortality from ICH or hot water. Never want to say Never but it is looking really bad. We never saw a day at Pilot with 10,000 fish go by. They have not been going by in big numbers at all. Just a weak low passage. Reports from rivers are that streams are really quiet. Maybe just a few jacks. Not a lot of salmon coming up the river this year. Genetics – looks like we had some Canadian fish in the first count at Pilot.
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Holly Carroll – US Fish & Wildlife Service Yukon River Area Manager-I first want to say that the pain that people are experiencing is not lost on us. I can’t hear someone cry about not being able to feed their family and I question why I do this job. We would not make these decisions if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.
One comment someone made from Chevak about what the Board of Fish (BOF) was doing. There is a process that people can approach the BOF for emergency orders. It’s hard not to think that this run is bad enough anyways, what would it hurt to let people get some fish. But our number one priority is to save fish for people 4-5 years from now, and if we fish on this run, we could do irreparable harm. You certainly can call the BOF though and see what they say. My opinion is that we stay the course. We have a bigger concern now for the chum, so I hope people can hold tight.
Christine Gleason – ADF&G Yukon River Area Fall Season Manager – Hello everyone. Yukon Area assistant manager for ADFG for the fall season. Brief update. Our management team has been listening to these calls each week. Hearing Fisher’s concerns, especially about food security. And watching the summer season. Summer chum this year is the poorest in history. Relationship between Summer and fall chum. We use this information to revise the Fall chum forecast. We expect a poor fall chum run. The fall season begins in 10 days. We continue to watch the run closely and will provide updates. 459-7274
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Jesse Trerice – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada-
Commercial and domestic fisheries are closed. We are not anticipating any openings in those fisheries. Thinking and hoping for better seasons in the future.
Questions and Discussions:
John – How often do you run sonar at Porcupine and x River?
Oliver – Porcupine since 2014
John – During the season, like this year 2021, how often is the sonar operational?
Oliver – Counts are 24 hours, however there is an inshore and off shore, ½ the time inshore and ½ off shore.
John – For ADFG, what numbers are Eagle are above 70,000? After the fact, I don’t think we are counting 24/7 down here.
Deena- I think we would be surprised to see that many Chinook show up at Eagle but it would be great. But I don’t think we are expecting that.
Holly – John, I think you are asking a good question. We are estimating the run at Pilot. The last couple of years we haven’t gotten it right. When we get the Eagle Sonar running, we are hoping that we get more accurate counts and might be able to have a harvestable surplus. It is too early to make those projections yet though.
Janet – I had some comments. I agree with the Chief from down river about our rights as Native people. As we’ve heard last year and the year before that there are no fish. But I think we need to stick together and each community needs to say that we are all going to fish at the same time for a couple of hours to get the fish that we need. They aren’t going to open the fishing for us. It is disturbing to me that they are going to declare a state of emergency. It is like we are giving up our rights. We don’t want them to declare. Apparently the State of Alaska has no money. Who is paying the law enforcement to go up and down the river when they say the State has no money.
I know here that there was one family using a 4” mesh. And they incidentally caught a few small little Jacks with that net. It is frustrating to me when an incidental catch is on Facebook of long strips hanging. Last week on the teleconference they were saying +/- 5,000 and this week they are saying +/- 9,000 that is really inconsistent. As Native people we have our sovereign rights and when the State took over the river it really went to hell. We were doing just fine regulating ourselves.
Georgiana Lincoln – It is very frustrating when you think of July 6 and we look out at the river and there aren’t any nets in at all. We know we can come down, get (hit?) a salmon with my boat motor. I don’t know if I believe ADFG about the numbers. You haven’t developed a new way of counting. You take into consideration people’s comments. You are using that as the comments for the counts. You’ve heard some people say high water, low water, the water’s fine, no drift. How are you scientifically counting these fish? I remember my cousin had a fish wheel. It was a live fish, when he measured it, if it was a boy or a girl, a jack or a big king. When he let it go, he had a method of letting it go LIVE. and the fish wheel caught the fish LIVE. The fish wheel was set in an historical place where generations set their fish wheel. I’ve been fishing in the same place since ‘63 (?). A 4” mesh will not catch kings. It’s by the teeth if it is. When a person calls from here, they are told by ADFG it is a 6.5 “ mesh net. So she bought a 6.5. Donaldson, who makes the nets, they are out of 4” nets until next year. You can’t get them. Comment on subsistence or food security. You said that special actions could be taken, I would encourage all users that are on the line, that we develop a resolution. We go to whatever meeting there is, and talk about, if you don’t have salmon, it’s almost like what Caribou is to Arctic Village. If you can’t get salmon, you are not going to survive or it is going to be very difficult to survive. It should have been for subsistence users only. Sports fishing, commercials – they are doing it because it is enjoyable or for money. Native people are doing it because they NEED it. I was here one time when you passed out boxes (of fish). We want to do our own fishing. We are not a charity. Please consider that. I want to hear from you again about the special action. Is it a resolution, is it in writing. Law enforcement? What are the numbers that we can respond to? On our nets, it fed 24 families, out of one net. Not everyone can fish but Elders need that subsistence fish or food security. I don’t believe it. I need to see, “this is how we count the fish”. There is nothing that you have shown me. I don’t believe you.
Deena – I can try to answer some of that. Carl, are you on and want to talk about Sonar methodology?
Carl ADFG – asking how we count is complicated, but we largely deploy in the same historical place since 1990. We have to make sure that the bottom is flat, so we fine tune the actual location. We operate 2 kinds of sonars. One gives a video-like image of the fish going by. You can watch them swim up river. Then the second kind we are looking at 150-300 meters, the data is saved to computers and the technicians review and count. That’s one piece. The other is ___? You can’t see what kind of fish it is on the sonar. So then we use a variety of drift nets to catch a variety of fish and we estimate the species composition.
Georgiana – That doesn’t help because I know that the sonar, you are doing the best you can with that type of counting. But one year the sonar was pointed at the ground when all these fish passed by. As far as the drift net goes, then you tell someone in Rampart or Tanana or another village, to put in one drift net. But with a drift net, you are killing whatever fish you catch. And we don’t get any of that and if we did, it wouldn’t be fresh. One person gives it out to the Elders or community members.
Joe Afcan – I was wondering if that sonar is recording on the computer, why isn’t that count giving information 24 hours per day, rather than 3-3-3?
Carl – you can do several different things – the sonars run 24 hours a day. At Pilot, we get so many fish down here, we can’t count them fast enough, so we are limited based on the people we have here counting. Many years you can be looking at millions of fish, and so we can’t physically count that many fish.
Joe Afcan – to YRDFA – to get in touch with our representation. A lot of these fish are getting caught out in the Bering Sea. If ADFG can restrict our gear type, I don’t see why those people out there aren’t being restricted to a certain type of gear so that they do not destroy fish that are bound for our river. USFWs and ADFG are focusing on enforcing. I would like to encourage everyone that is affected by the annual disasters to call these people. And for YRDFA to help us along those lines.
Serena – Director of YRDFA- yes we are trying to get information and we have provided testimony to the NPFMC. They have time for public testimony. And the more they hear from people about their concerns. We try to provide all the information, we have had off season teleconferences about bycatch and those presentations get forwarded to your tribal councils. We post it in places we think people will look like our Facebook page. Your voices are important to be heard. Your testimony on these calls are fabulous. And the managers are on these calls so they get to hear too. All of your comments are written and posted to our website.
Billy – There is a regulatory process, I am wondering if this in-river season would include if there was a harvestable surplus at the headwaters, would they be able to harvest, since the lower river wasn’t able to? The regulators have determined that there is no harvest opportunity and that should apply into Canada. If we can’t fish, they shouldn’t fish at all. Or is that something that needs to be done through the regulatory process?
Deena – On the Alaska side if we had good numbers at Eagle, we would consider opening fishing. Unfortunately the fish would all be up river, but if we are not projected to meet escapement, then we cannot open fishing, and that is what we are projecting, so we are closed.
Jesse- If there were more fish than what is expected to cross the border, we abide by the Yukon River Salmon Agreement, we would use that to estimate the harvest share. We would only fish the harvest share and the rest would be allowed to pass to the spawning grounds to sustain future runs.
Martin – I am here at the tribal office and with our current situation I am always preoccupied. I wanted to read a few of the notes I made today. I appreciate the YRDFA teleconferences. As of July 6, 2021, I haven’t caught any salmon. Drying salmon today would be considered want and waste because of the rain. We use all natural resources to process our salmon. We supplement our diet because of the cost of living. Because of the closures this year we needed to pass a declaration of disaster when we passed our short window of drying, which was 3-4 conferences ago. There is an immediate need that is given when hurricanes. We need to tell the country and Canada if the state does comply. We can’t hunt like Canada. You need to see the prices of goods here in Pilot and other places. You can’t substitute the health benefits of our salmon. We dry to preserve salmon to eat during the winter. The longevity of our Elders is because of our salmon. I’ve met all of these people speaking today. Our next goal would be to put some salmon away in the freezer. At the tribal office we hear people that come and go, and we can’t substitute what they are suffering. If we had managed our salmon properly in the past, we wouldn’t be like other rivers.
John – I need to express my concern, deep concern, to all of your that are listening, that this emergency shutdown for our subsistence is affecting our culture and our Native communities. And also, I feel like I am a forgotten generation of Alaska. Because we don’t have our voice. Who is our voice for us right now? Our Elders sacrificed for us. Hunger means no law. We have to honor that. Here in our community of Chevak, I feel that I have no representation. I am the only one that can do it because I am an Elder now. I learned about our way of life. The (unknown) River, (unknown) river, etc. supplies us with red salmon. They don’t go up to the Yukon. And here we are, my whole lifestyle is shut down. What am I gonna do? What are my children and grandchildren going to do? I heard from the Elders a long time ago, hey, starvation is coming. We are going to have hardship in this land. And how do we prepare ourselves? We have to stand up and say, I can hunt and I can fish. When we gather our food, we don’t over gather. And I can share with an Elder who doesn’t have anyone to hunt for him. Even if I’m an Elder I am going to share. That respect that I have for myself and my people. It goes out to all of you too. I feel we can survive. We can talk to our creator, right there and then. My creator, you supply me what you have been supplying me for thousands of years. I didn’t grow up somewhere else. My ancestors were kayaking, they were fishing. I feel like I don’t have a representative from the State of Alaska. And all of you that are listening in your villages, you have a tribe. A recognized government by the state of Alaska. We need to go back to our old way of life.
Fred – I have a statement to make: under the Alaska Native Claim Settlement act, gave the power of the federal government to protect our subsistence rights. The state does not recognize this act and manages our river. But with co-management the federal managers have a fiduciary responsibility to protect our rights. The stock of Chinook salmon is so low right now it might be our next move to dissolve this co-management system so that the federal government takes over the management of this river. That would give senators in the states the ability to manage us. There is no authority in the Bering Sea or in Canada. We need to stand together and take a look at this federal law that was passed in 1980, we have a right to fish our subsistence rights. We need to sit down with the State and Federal government and the Dept of Interior. This may be a crisis that lasts a lot longer than we think. We are probably in for a long time of our life changing unless we step up and ask the federal government to figure out what is going on with our Chinook salmon.
Holly – You bring up some great comments. You are right, under ANILCA there is a mandate to provide subsistence. Asking the Federal Subsistence Board to consider a special action. They can do this when there is an out of cycle request. They may take special action to close or open fishing. If FSB decided that request to go fishing now was warranted, they would only be able to do that within Federal waters, adjacent to federal refuges. There is an informational flyer about how special actions work. It is part of the Office of Subsistence Management. I have sent this flyer and she can post it on the Facebook page for YRDFA. I think what you are talking about is an option that Kuskokwim has been experiencing. We are not allowed to take actions that would be damaging to future runs.
Rochelle- My heart is breaking. (crying) Our people are hungry. I am listening to everyone up and down the river hurting for our fish. You think about the phone calls that we are on every week, what difference does it make. How are you integrating this into our fisheries? Why aren’t we talking about what is happening in the ocean or climate change? Our smoke house is empty and my children are hungry. Our people hold indigenous knowledge and it is left out of the conversation every week. Earlier one of the managers said if we fish there will be irreparable consequences. What about the ocean? We are fighting for crumbs. We are the original stewards of this land. We have to stop waiting for a savior to come save us. We have to take our river back. We need to bring back our traditional values, our ceremony. I encourage and echo what is being said here. What they are doing is not working.
Dorothy- Good afternoon, heartbroken over what is going on on the Yukon. I think about Rep John Lewis, time to get into good trouble, necessary trouble. It’s time to get state and national attention, for everybody to catch 5 fish. That was to get that attention. We are not the answer, we are not the problem. If I can, get a number of how many fish were harvested by subsistence users last year? It makes a tiny difference. It’s time for us to make a statement to get attention. I agree we have to organize and we have to all be involved to do it. Not sure how. But I agree that the system is not working for us. We need to take back the river. We have to work together and be in this together. Last year the State lost 40,000 fish and maybe this year they will show up. We can’t rely on the data, it’s flawed.
Janet – I totally agree but as Native people we need to stand up like everyone has said. We also need to set our net for certain days and certain hours to get our fish. We have to get together. We have to take this river over. When we testify they don’t hear us. Lets just do it so we can eat. We have law enforcement on this river and I ask who is paying for it if the State is so broke. I think I am going to organize tonight for Rampart and say, “Let’s do this together”. One net we can share with families so we can eat. Who is paying for the law enforcement no one answered me? Like I said, we testify, and they don’t hear us. If we want to eat fish we’ve got to just do it.
Maya – I’m a youth from Fort Yukon and Beaver. I just want to come on and say I want to be able to fish as my parents did and their parents did. What are you doing? You are dancing around these big words and not answering anyone’s questions. As a youth, I’m supposed to be out there providing for my family. I want to be able to pass on to my children just as they have passed on to me. There are a lot of people here listening and a lot of people hungry and crying. I’m only 21 and I remember things were different when I was a kid. I can see the change and I am young. I should be listening to my grandparents telling me how it was different back then but it’s different now. I should be dropping off fish at my grandparents’ doorstep. I hope you listen and hear everyone. You should listen to the people. We are the ones who have been here.
Deena – Funding: The state has budget issues, but there is not any money. We are funded to do our work. I don’t know all of the answers. It is a hard year. We are hearing all the feedback and it is very difficult (emotional). We don’t take this lightly. It is very difficult. It is hard to tell people that they can’t go fishing. The runs are so small. We can’t go fishing. That’s got to be part of the conversation. Summer chum is the lowest run ever. If everyone took the summer chum that they took in (x) season, we would have ZERO fish to go to the spawning grounds.
John – Thanks for having this call in. The high seas fisheries and trollers are catching Chinook and others by the 1000s. This is where all the sonar counts are being caught. The observers are probably being bought. We need to send in undercover people and report the real numbers. Has anyone thought about building fish hatcheries to support our low numbers? This is a win-win solution. The Canadians and Alaskans can have hatcheries. They are thriving elsewhere. It’s all natural. You just mimic the eggs and sperm and let them go naturally. A Fishery disaster should be declared this year. This has never happened in my lifetime. The state of Alaska and federal agencies need to step up to replace our fish in cash or other food supplements. We need to declare it and I hope the tribes can be in the forefront of the declaration. We can’t declare it by ourselves.
Georgina Lincoln – I was a senator for 14 years. I am still of the opinion that, from 1990 to 2004, I heard this report back then from 1990. I don’t mean to be offensive to the staff, but I feel that fisheries by the State of AK are not managed properly by the managers. I didn’t mean to offend anyone on the line. Using an old method. What is the estimate of the escapement of the 100,000 kings in the river now. Then what fisheries or fishing can be provided during an emergency like the Covid, that we’ve had, for food security. What fishing can be provided during this emergency. And I don’t mean provided by people bringing food in. Can every village fish for one period of 24 hrs. The Council would select the person who would be going out and doing that. And then have it counted. To have nothing creates a division between us. We are either going to fish illegally so that we can provide for the families or you come up with a solution, a suggestion so we can provide it.
Deena – Thank you for the questions. While this year the salmon runs aren’t doing good, there are still opportunities to fish for whitefish, or non-salmon. Our plan was that once we got summer chum that we would open with selective gear, but unfortunately that’s not happening now. We are looking at counts in other projects as well, not just on the Yukon. We are using several technologies also. In terms of what fishing can be provided, we discussed that with the commissioner – If 33 communities each took 100, that’s 3300 fish, would that be a responsible job for us if we were taking 3300 fish off of the spawning grounds. It isn’t ideal, but it may be something we look at.
Leah Woods – Rampart – I have been coming here with my family every summer to fish. Normally we fish. This summer we are not fishing. We are waiting. I normally don’t, I am more into the housing for the tribes. My sister Brooke, she advocates for our fish. It sounds like you guys meet once a week for the entire summer. What is ADFG doing? You would like to see us fish but we are not. The cost of living is high. There are no jobs in these villages. How do you expect the native people to eat? We are the people who live along the river. WE are from these lands. You would like to see us fish but you restrict us. We would like to fish when we can. Nobody knows, you cannot count every fish that comes up this river. You have an idea but you don’t know. How do you expect our tribes to eat, our children, our Elders to eat this winter. I am requesting that you allow us to fish. Right now. You decide and let us fish. Give us an opening so we can get some fish.
Deena – You are correct. These call go on one every week. And they have been going on for many years. In the past our calls were more about when the openings were and how to fish. I would love to let people fish if there were enough fish to harvest and still meet escapement.
John – The senator Lincoln’s question wasn’t answered. Of the 100,000 fish, how many are Canadian?
Deena – Eagle counted 389, which is good, but lower than normal. We are working on genetics which will help us understand the total Canadian numbers. It is projected to be at or below the lower number that we need to see at the border.
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