Consideration of Sheefish Spawning Areas on the Kuskokwim River for ACEC Nomination to the BLM: Follow Up Report
June 13, 2014By: Kate Schaberg, GTC Environmental Coordinator
Sheefish are a culturally significant fish species along the Kuskokwim River; they are harvested for subsistence use by many, especially in the middle and upper river. Sheefish are often caught before salmon in the spring, and offer an opportunity for fresh fish early in the season. In recent years, king salmon have been in decline and there has been an even greater shift in harvest patterns away from king salmon and more toward whitefish and other salmon species. Sheefish spawning grounds have very specific needs and occur in small numbers on the Kuskokwim River, as has been documented over the last five years by Lisa Stuby. Because of this, the habitat in and around the existing spawning grounds needs to be protected, to allow for future productivity of the species. For all of these reasons, the GTC members and the GTC environmental committee felt that the areas of sheefish spawning on the Kuskokwim would fit the criteria for relevance and importance, which are necessary to be considered as an ACEC by the BLM, and decided to go forth with the nomination process. The first part of this process was to conduct research on the topic, the area, and to gather necessary materials for the nomination.
After contact with several local residents in the upper Kuskokwim River, I have come to find out that they will be sharing their local knowledge about the areas to the Army Corps of Engineers and others, in hopes that the pipeline planned for the potential Donlin Gold mine will not affect these areas.