Feds Win District Court Ruling Over Kuskokwim River Subsistence Salmon Fishing

As the Kuskokwim River, like other fisheries in Alaska, has endured sport fishing closures for king salmon. And the river also has been at the center of a dispute between federal and state agencies regarding subsistence fishing. Today, a United States District Court ruling favored the federal side of the argument, which would prohibit subsistence anglers to utilize the Kuskokwim. Alaska Public Media has some details:

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled Friday that state fisheries managers can’t allow salmon fishing on a long stretch of the Kuskokwim River if their orders conflict with federal management decisions aimed at protecting fish for subsistence use.

The dispute arose in 2021, a drastically low chinook salmon year. The Federal Subsistence Board and other federal officials sharply curtailed salmon fishing on 180 miles of the Kuskokwim, where it winds through the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta National Wildlife Refuge. They closed that section of river to non-subsistence harvests. They also limited subsistence fishing to local rural residents and imposed restrictions on when they could fish and what gear they could use. 

The state Department of Fish and Game issued an order allowing all Alaskans — not just federally qualified subsistence users — to engage in the limited harvest.

The entire judge’s ruling can be found here.