Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kuskokwim River Salmon Subsistence Fishery Update

June 26, 2013


This morning the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group met for discussion and approved a motion to accept ADF&G's proposal to establish the following restrictions on subsistence fishing on the Kuskokwim. 
  •  Effective 1:00 am, Friday, June 28, 2013 until 11:00 pm, Wednesday, July 3, 2013, subsistence salmon fishing from the mouth of the Kuskokwim River to Tuluksak is restricted to the use of gillnets with 6-inch or less mesh size, not exceeding 50-fathoms in length and 45 meshes deep. Hook and line fishing for king salmon is also closed.

  •  Effective 1:00 am, Wednesday, July 3, 2013 until 11:00 pm, Saturday, July 6, 2013, subsistence salmon fishing from Tuluksak to Chuathbaluk is restricted to the use of gillnets with 6-inch or less mesh size, not exceeding 50-fathoms in length and 45 meshes deep. Hook and line fishing for king salmon is also closed.

  • All existing Tributary Restrictions will remain. (See New Release 6 for specifics).
The news release can be found  HERE for further details regarding the following restrictions:

A visual representation of these restrictions is as follows:


 
Subsistence reports came in from all up and down the river.   Generally, down river fishermen are beginning to target chum salmon, as they have met or almost met their king salmon subsistence needs. They were happy with their success thus far, and appreciative of the opportunity to fish. The middle river villages like Aniak, Kalskag and Napaimute report slow fishing on kings, and expressed concern that salmon were being overharvested down river.  Villages further upriver such as Red Devil, Sleetmute, Stony River and McGrath reported that several families have tried but without success on king harvest.  They report very low numbers, if any.  It was a statement throughout the river that drifting isn't worth the cost of gas.  Another concern overall was that there are not many females in subsistence catches, and kings have been smaller this year than previous years.

The reason behind the restrictions? As stated in the ADF&G news release:

"Current data from the Bethel Test Fishery (BTF) project indicates that king salmon escapement goals will likely be met; however projections are near the lower end of the Drainagewide Sustainable Escapement Goal (65,000–120,000). BTF indicates high abundances of sockeye and chum salmon at this time. Given the uncertainty of inseason run assessment, it is warranted to restrict gillnet mesh size to 6-inch or less to conserve king salmon and provide harvest opportunity on more abundant sockeye and chum salmon. "

To give you a look at some of the BTF numbers for Chinook, Chum and Sockeye as compared to previous years:
 

Chinook:






 

Chum:



 

Sockeye:





It is important to stay up to date on these issues, and we will continue to do our best to keep you informed and provide you with the data we receive. Comments or questions can always be posted on our blog, it only takes one person to get a conservation started...and who knows what it could lead to?


 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Donlin Gold: Navigating the EIS Process…One Step at a Time

June 25, 2013

 
It’s no news that Donlin Gold, LLC is proposing the development of an open pit, hardrock gold mine located approximately 15 miles northwest of Georgetown. Because it’s so close to home, it is important for the members of Georgetown to stay informed and be part of the public review process, so that we can be sure any potential impacts are minimized or avoided completely.  The way to do this is to remain involved in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. 
Where are we in this process now?
 
The first part of this EIS process was the scoping. The scoping process completed by the Army Corps of Engineer came to an end on April 29, 2013.  During the scoping process, a newsletter was sent out, government to government consultation was conducted with several tribes, including Georgetown, and 14 public meetings were held, for which a summary of the issues identified can be found here: http://donlingoldeis.com/GetInvolved.aspx.  A complete scoping report will soon be posted on this website as well, which will go into greater detail of the comments made during the first part of the EIS process.
To give you a general idea of some of the issues raised:
 
An Increase in barge traffic (yearly would be 122 round trips, using 40 million gallons of fuel) and its impact on bank erosion, spawning grounds, and their displacement of subsistence and commercial fisheries;
 
Mercury and its effects on fish, animals and human health;
 
Water quality and the potential introduction of contaminants from runoff, water treatment, tailings, fuel spills and the transportation of cyanide and captured mercury on the river;
 
Disturbance to fish and wildlife populations;
 
Health impacts to the people and their communities along the Kuskokwim;
 
Subsistence traditions being altered due to a rapid culture change, and a potential decrease in resources that are depended upon by the people living on the River.
All of these issues are important, and if any of them strike a nerve with you…it’s not too late to be involved!  Staying informed is the #1 way to make a difference.  Talk to your friends and families about these issues.  Talk about what can be done, and voice your concerns. Although the official commenting period is over, the Corps always welcomes additional comments and/or concerns. 
Contact Information for Army Corps Project Manager: Don Kuhle, Project Manager Don.P.Kuhle@usace.army.mil 907-753-2780
Where are we headed?
 
It can be a confusing journey, this EIS process, but we are now looking forward to August of 2014, when the draft EIS is expected to be issued.  In the meantime, the Corps and cooperating agencies will be working to develop alternatives, study the environment that will be affected, and asses the consequences of alternatives as well.  Once published, the Draft EIS will become available for a 90-day public review.  The Corps will hold additional public meetings at this time, to offer another opportunity for public comment.
Until then, I will be sure to keep you informed every step of the way!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Visiting Georgetown

June 12, 2013


Twice a year, I have the pleasure of travelling out to the Kuskokwim River, to collect water quality data in the small village of Georgetown.  It's nice to have a job to do in a place like this.

It's quite a haul to get out there and back.  Loaded down with three coolers full of water quality sampling materials, two totes, a dry bag, a YSI meter, and a whole lot of bug dope (not to mention the bear spray) we hop on a plane that takes us from Anchorage to Aniak, a small "hub" on the middle Kuskokwim.  From there, we catch another flight, this time on a Cessna 207 (small by my standards) to either Red Devil or Sleetmute.  To say we land at airports there would be a very large exaggeration.  Look out the window of this 207 and you'll catch a glimpse of the type of landing strip we're talking here.
 
Once we're there, we seem to always have the help of some awfully nice folks out there to  get us and our gear down to the boat via 4wheeler.  We motor up to a lodge on the Kuskokwim, just down river from the mouth of the Holitna River, near Sleetmute, AK.
 
 
 The work begins the next day, when we head back down river, past the communities of Sleetmute and Red Devil once more, and arrive in Georgetown about an hour later.  Along the way, we pass barges on the river, and moose feasting on willows.  I haven't seen a bear on the Kuskokwim yet, but I keep looking.   This year, breakup was late so the water was still pretty high and muddy in the Kuskokwim and George Rivers. The village of Georgetown doesn't have many at home residents, especially year round ones, but the members of Georgetown hope to rebuild the community someday, one house at a time.  As it stands now, here is what the view of Georgetown looks like:


We pull up across the river from Georgetown to take samples from the two monitoring wells a little ways back, within a 1/2 mile from shore. 



What are we testing for?  GTC has bee collecting water quality data since 2008 in order to establish baseline data for the Kuskokwim and George Rivers.  With impending development in the area, it is important to know what the quality of the water is and has been, so that if anything should change, we can help identify the cause of such changes.

Using a YSI 556 meter, we collect water quality parameters including pH, DO, conductivity, temperature, and ORP for each of the monitoring wells.  For further description on these parameters and what they can mean for a water source, please visit our website here.



Next we collect water samples to send in to a laboratory in Anchorage for further testing, including total metals, total coliform, and other organic pollutants. 


The George River

We do the same in the George and Kuskokwim River, measuring for the same parameters and collecting water samples for processing back in Anchorage. Both of these rivers are vital habitat for both resident and anadramous fish, including but not limited to  pike, sheefish, and salmon.

The Kuskokwim River









 
 
 
 
 










We return to Sleetmute for the night, only to be ambushed by mosquitos.  Lucky for me, that meant I was up at 3 AM and able to take in this awesome view of the river.


 On our way back to town, we fly first to Aniak, then to Bethel and finally on to Anchorage.  The views are once again spectacular though, so I can't complain too much.



The Kuskokwim River is the longest free flowing River in the United States.  It is home to a large variety of fish, wildlife and plant species.  The people here depend on the River for their subsistence way of life.  We at GTC hope to continue to do our part to ensure the protection and sustainability of our natural resources, so that generations to come may also enjoy what we have now.


Kuskokwim is a loose transliteration of a Yupik language word. It is a compound word meaning big slow moving thing.
 




 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bethel Test Fishery says: The Chinook are back!

June 10, 2013


According to Bethel Test Fish data, the Chinook salmon have begun their return.  As of June 8, several Chinook had been caught.

To keep up to date on the BTF run data, you can search through Fish & Game's database here:
http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/CommFishR3/Website/AYKDBMSWebsite/ProjectInformation.aspx

Simply click on the "Test Fish" link and search by the year.  It will give you a day by day count of what they're catching.


Another great resource is the list serve for News Releases.

To sign up to receive up to date News Releases regarding subsistence and commercial fisheries, follow the link below:
 

For sport fisheries News Releases, use this link:

Select the SouthCentral Region, and scan News Releases from 2013.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Upcoming 2013 Kuskokwim Salmon Fisheries Season: Cautiously Optimistic?

 

June 5, 2013

 

Over the past couple of weeks, there's been a lot of talk about the upcoming salmon fishery on the Kuskokwim. Specifically for Kings. With KYUK hosting two radio talks about King Conservation (VIEW HERE), and ADF&G publishing several News Releases (VIEW HERE)....there  is a bit of anticipation in the air. As ADF&G area management biologist Travis Elison labels the feeling, they are: "cautiously optimistic".

 

The run size for Chinook is expected to be greater than last year (last year was the lowest total return on record), and the opportunities to fish are expected to be greater as well. Why? What’s changed from 2012? 

 

In 2012, ADF&G was managing for a non established Management Object of 127,000 Chinook.  A whole river escapement goal was not available last year; only tributary escapement goals were established.  In fall of 2012, the department published the Chinook salmon run reconstruction - giving a whole picture of the total Kuskokwim run from 1976-2011.  Using that information, they completed a spawner recruit analysis – where the total return from a single spawning event is estimated.  From this data, a drainage wide escapement goal could be established, allowing them to manage for the entire river, not just tributaries.  The 2013 escapement goal for Chinook salmon of  65,000-120,000 was established.

 

The forecast for the total run in 2013 is for the return of 160,000-240,000 kings for the entire drainage including escapement and harvest.  Even at the lower end of the estimate, that would leave just enough fish for average subsistence harvest of 85,000 fish, plus 10- 20,000 fish above the lower end of the escapement goal (65,000-120,000).  However, forecasts are not perfect – last year the actual run size was about 100,000 fish, where the forecast had been 155,000-233,000.  Just a reminder that a forecast is a pre-season estimate of the return in the following year, allowing ADF&G to develop a preseason management strategy.  Once we are in season, Bethel Test Fish data and subsistence fishermen reports are used to re-evaluate projection of the return as related to escapement goals, thus changing management strategies. 

 

The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group is made up of sport fisherman, subsistence fisherman, commercial fishermen, fish processors, ADF&G representatives,  FWS representatives, concerned members of the community, tribal representatives, and I'm sure others I've forgotten to list here. They all spend many hours working to achieve the goals of communities up and down the Kuskokwim River - a sustainable future for the salmon in the Kuskokwim as well as the opportunity for harvest.  Hopefully a common goal this year among all - working group members, fishermen and members of the public alike - will be for the sustainable future of this important resource - the Chinook salmon, so that generations to come may enjoy what we have enjoyed for so long.  As for now, we're still waiting for the first fish to come in, so I'm with Travis - feeling cautiously optimistic.

For more information:

 

 Published project reports at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/sf/publications/

 

 An archive and current Working Group packets at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyareakuskokwim.salmon#/management

 

Historical data from escapement, ASL, and Test Fish projects through the AYK database at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/CommFishR3/WebSite/AYKDBMSWebsite/Default.aspx

 

Escapement counts at all operating ADFG escapement projects through the Sportfish fish counts page at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/sf/FishCounts/

 

And as always, you can view up to date fisheries publications and information at http://www.georgetowntc.com/Fisheries_Information.html