Last year, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced a controversial new fishing task force, which faced a lot of challenges amid contentious feelings and struggles with declining stocks throughout the state’s waters. Now, almost one year in, the Governor’s task force needs to make some decisions on bycatch concerns within the fishing industry. Here’s Alaska Public Media:
Many of the mostly Indigenous residents of western Alaska who depend on now-faltering salmon runs in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers have said strict rules to reduce at-sea bycatch are needed to help alleviate a crisis. Disasters have been declared for these fisheries.
Serena Fitka, the executive director of the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association who grew up in the Yup’ik village of St. Mary’s near the Bering Sea coast, said she has not been able to harvest river salmon for three years.
It’s not only about lost food, she told the task force at a meeting in Anchorage on Wednesday. “It’s also very important for rural communities because it’s our culture, which includes mental, social consequences,” she told the task force at a meeting on Wednesday. “Every single person in our communities relies on that salmon.”