A Ninilchik Traditional Council proposal to open the Kasilof drainage area to a subsistence fishery for coho salmon this fall gathered fresh support when it was presented to the Southcentral Subsistence Regional Advisory Council on Thursday.
If accepted by the Federal Subsistence Board, the proposal could allow as many as 500 coho salmon to be harvested from the Kasilof drainage.
A new subsistence harvest opportunity is needed because current subsistence opportunities, which reflect the sport fishery, have failed to provide adequate winter food supplies for subsistence gathers, according to the tribe.
“This limited fishery will help to somewhat reduce the hardship being suffered under the current ‘sport fish’ subsistence fishery,” the tribe said in a letter it sent to the board last week. “It will not satisfy subsistence uses or needs, or eliminate the hardship, but it is a start and will provide some food for this winter.”
The tribe says it is proposing the fishery as a temporary and first step toward creating a subsistence fishery that will meet subsistence fishing needs, which it plans to propose to the board at its meeting in January.
In the meantime, a temporary subsistence coho fishery, as proposed by the tribe, would issue five permits a day, five days a week and would allow each permit holder 20 coho for the day that the permit was issued.
Once 500 coho are harvested the fishery would end and Ninilchik community members and federal fisheries managers would meet to determine whether the fishery should continue, based on coho escapements and conservation status.
The proposal for the temporary fishery received unanimous support from the Southcentral RAC when it was presented to them last Thursday, said Doug Blossom, a member of the Southcentral RAC.
“We asked for public comments and government comments and we received no negative testimony whatsoever,” he said.
On Thursday, the Southcentral RAC also reviewed a board proposal to create a Kenai Peninsula RAC.
According to the board, a separate peninsula RAC would relieve some of the burden carried by the Southcentral RAC, which covers an area extending from the Canadian border to portions of Denali Park, and would better address issues unique to the peninsula.
But the RAC proposal met with a decidedly unfavorable response from the Southcentral RAC, Blossom said.
The Southcentral RAC found the proposed peninsula RAC unnecessary and its boundaries poorly planned, he said.
“The Southcentral RAC, as it is presently set up, has never had a problem, we’ve been able to solve everything,” Blossom said. “Until we have a problem, why set up a new RAC? This RAC they’re trying to set up is for such a small area, such a small number of people, it’s almost ridiculous.”
While the Southcentral RAC meeting reflected strong support for the Kasilof subsistence fishery and opposition to the creation of a peninsula RAC, Blossom cautioned people to remember the Southcentral RAC’s actions remain purely advisory and that final decisions remain in the hands of the board.
The board will review the Ninilchik Traditional Council’s request and the Kenai Peninsula RAC proposal at its next meeting. The board plans to announce a date for its next meeting today.
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