Persistence pays off for subsistence openers

After years of effort to get subsistence fishing opportunities separate from commercial openers, the Alaska Board of Fisheries has approved a proposal extending that effort to include every Saturday after May 15 through Oct. 31.

The vote on an amended Proposal 19 by John Whissel, environmental director for the Native Village of Eyak, came during the board’s December meeting in Valdez.

NVE has been trying to get subsistence opportunities for the salmon fishery separated from commercial openers since the 1990s, said Whissel.

“I’m very pleased that the people who were to able to get enough salmon will have the opportunity to get their freezers full,” he said. “I was surprised that it passed, because it hasn’t so many times.”

For years regulations allowed for subsistence fishing from May 15 until two days before the first commercial opener, and then during commercial fishing periods on Mondays and Thursdays.

“This time we proposed it at the meeting in Cordova in 2013, and then we conducted a subsistence survey with ADF&G and documented the need for additional subsistence,” Whissel said.

His proposal urged that separation of commercial and subsistence fisheries should be done in a way that subsistence users in the Copper River District drift gill net fleet may have access to the fish at any time within the season.

The tribal entity had sought to have subsistence fishing opened from May 1 to Oct. 31, seven days a week.  Subsistence regulations allow for individuals to catch up to 15 salmon, with a second member of the same household also allowed 15 fish, plus 10 more for each additional member. There is a limit of five kings per household.