Subsistence closures planned for Quinhagak area

State wildlife managers have taken an unprecedented action and implemented a king salmon subsistence closure in the Quinhagak area.

The closure on the Kanektok River for the next four Sundays, beginning this weekend, comes after meetings between managers and local fishermen who were concerned that longer closures could lead to illegal fishing.

State and federal wildlife managers met with fishermen to discuss options for conserving chinook salmon in the area, KYUK reported.

"After the series of meetings we had with the village, that's what they wanted to see was the Sunday closures and we think it'll give the chinook an extra day to get into the river," said Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Aaron Tiernan.

The lowest numbers of kings were counted there in 2012. Commercial openings for kings that were canceled in 2013 appear to have improved escapement.

Quinhagak resident Grace Hill is among locals who told managers that subsistence restrictions should be limited.

"I know my people will get their fish because salmon is their way of life," Hill said.

Hill and managers are hoping to avoid the situation that occurred in 2012 when dozens of Kuskokwim River residents were accused of illegal fishing after tight restrictions were imposed during a weak king run.

Another restriction being considered would be to close the mouth of the river during commercial openers, if such openers are allowed. The size and scope of that potential closure has not yet been decided, according to Tiernan.

Subsistence activities and salmon escapement will be closely monitored, he said.

Quinhagak is a Yup'ik community of 690 located 71 miles southwest of Bethel.

06/06/2014 - 8:03am