Attorney In Lawsuit Says State Mismanaged Yukon, Kuskokwim Salmon

Lawsuits are all the rage, and the struggles for salmon in multiple areas are being challenged within the state of Alaska. An Alaska attorney argued his case this week that argues the state mismanaged struggling salmon numbers in the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. Here are some details from Alaska Public Media:

On Monday in Bethel, attorney Joe Geldhof argued that the state is managing those fisheries so poorly that it is violating the Alaska Constitution. Article VIII, Section 4 of the constitution says that fisheries should be managed “on the sustained yield principle,” and Geldhof — representing a Juneau man, Eric Forrer — argues that declining king and chum salmon returns in the Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers “illustrate a failure to adhere to the constitutional directive regarding sustained yield.”

An unprecedented collapse in those fisheries has resulted in orders banning traditional subsistence fishing along the river.

In a lawsuit filed last year against the state and the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Forrer asked a judge in Bethel to issue a ruling declaring that the state is unconstitutionally managing the Yukon and Kuskokwim salmon fisheries and for a “mutually agreeable consent decree” outlining an as-yet-unwritten new management system.

It’s been a rough time for the Interior rivers. In January, 2022, a federal disaster was declared for previous Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers salmon seasons. Last summer, a record-low of returning chum salmon were counted in the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta. Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced restricted king salmon fishing in the Yukon River Area drainage:

Yukon River Area drainage: In all waters,a king salmon that is removed from the water must be retained and becomes part of the bag limit of the person that originally hooked the fish, and a person may not remove a king salmon from the water before releasing the fish.