What's the use? Subsistence board to reconsider Ninilchik's uses of the Kenai

Posted: Friday, October 15, 2010

The Federal Subsistence Board is set to reconsider a proposal recognizing the customary and traditional use of all fish in the Kenai River drainage by residents of Ninilchik.

While the board has recognized Ninilchik resident's uses of all fish in the Kasilof River drainage, they only recognize the use of salmon in the Kenai.

For several years now, the Ninilchik Traditional Council has been working to expand the customary and traditional use finding to all fish in the Kenai.

This would include essentially any fish in the drainage, such as rainbow trout, dolly varden, lake trout and burbot, among others.

Like any fishing issue on the Kenai, it's a proposal that's both complex and controversial.

It's not made any easier by the fact that for more than 50 years, there was no subsistence fishing on the Peninsula.

"When the board developed these regulations, in part they needed to determine who qualifies for subsistence opportunities on public federal lands and qualify that by species," said Peter Probasco, the assistant regional director at the Office of Subsistence Management, in Anchorage. "When it came to the Kenai River the Ninilchik community specifically asked for salmon and all other species. The board felt that there was sufficient information for salmon and gave that to the community. When they started looking at the other issue of use there was some documentation but very little and the data was separated out over a long time frame."

The council, however, has argued that subsistence users would not discriminate between one species of fish over another.

"For many Alaska Native peoples and tribes, the practice of catch and release or throwing back by-catch violates cultural values and is highly repulsive," the council wrote in its proposal.

The council, in its most recent request, has proven that based on both the board's own procedural process and its own findings, there is need to reconsider the issue.

On Oct. 19 the Southcentral Alaska Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council will meet in Cordova to weigh in on the issue, and on Nov. 9 -10 the Federal Subsistence Board is set make a decision at their meeting in Anchorage at the Gordon Watson Conference Room in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Office at 1011 E. Tudor Road.

For more information visit www.alaska.fws.gov/asm/index.cfml

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com.

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