Feds to fund subsistence fish studies around Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, February 27, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Federal Subsistence Board has agreed to spend $7.25 million on 75 projects to learn more about Alaska's subsistence fisheries.

This is the second year for federally funded fisheries studies since the federal takeover of the management of subsistence fishing in October of 1999.

The projects range from adding six new fish-counting weirs on rivers and streams to establishing a group to sort out conflicts between subsistence users and sportfishermen in several villages on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

Each study aims to fill in gaps about what biologists know about fish returns or migrations or how people practice subsistence. The goal is better management of subsistence fisheries, said Steve Klein, chief of fisheries information services for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Subsistence Management.

Many of the projects will be cooperative ventures spread among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and local governments or tribal groups.

In some cases, rural villages have taken over responsibility for fish counting at weirs or tagging and tracking fish with radios.

''It's gone from agencies doing the monitoring to villages doing it on their own,'' Klein told the Anchorage Daily News.

Other studies funded Monday attempt to determine why some fish stocks are declining.

For example, one will examine a disease that appears to be on the rise in Yukon River king salmon. It may cause salmon to die before they reach spawning streams and is thought to be part of the reason for recent declines in Yukon salmon in recent years.

One question is whether temperature affects disease rates.

Dewey Schwalenberg and Randy Mayo from Stevens Village on the Yukon River testified Monday on behalf of a proposal to study pike. They said more sportfishermen are coming to fish for pike, competing with subsistence fishermen.

''Pike is a historic food for us, and there is increased competition for these fisheries from people coming in from the Dalton Highway,'' said Mayo, with the Stevens Village Tribal Council.

More than 200 ideas for studies were proposed to the board. After the proposals were reviewed by a technical committee, the state's regional advisory councils and the Fish and Wildlife Service, the board decided to fund 75 projects in six regions from the North Slope to Southeast Alaska.

Most studies will begin this summer.

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