ANCHORAGE (AP) -- So few salmon have returned to the Kuskokwim River drainage this summer, that the federal subsistence board has limited subsistence fishing for kings on the Kuskokwim.
The move is said to be the first time such restrictions have been placed on subsistence fishing of king salmon in the state's history.
''It's a very weak salmon run, and the second year in a row this has happened,'' said Jerry Berg, a fisheries biologist with the Office of Subsistence Management.
The restrictions were met with broad support, Berg said, noting that the village of Kwethluk had already asked people to stop fishing for kings.
''This is the worst we've seen it since statehood,'' said Tom Kron, regional supervisor with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Fish and Game put in place identical restrictions on subsistence fishing on Saturday.
In response to the poor king returns on the Kuskokwim drainage and overall poor salmon returns on the Yukon River drainage, Gov. Tony Knowles has asked President Clinton for federal assistance, Kron said. The governor also held a teleconference Tuesday with representatives from villages along the Kuskokwim and Yukon drainages and plans to travel to the region Thursday and Friday.
The emergency 60-day regulations approved by the Federal Subsistence Board on Monday restrict the size of drift and set gillnet mesh to 6 inches or less, which is too small for catching most kings. They also limit the number of kings that can be taken to one fish per day when a person is subsistence fishing with a rod and reel.
The federal regulations apply to all subsistence fishing in federal waters of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, while the state regulations apply to the rest of the river drainage.
The state also closed the sportfishery for king salmon throughout the Kuskokwim drainage. No commercial fishing periods are being considered, although a fall season may be considered, depending on salmon runs then, Berg said.
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