AVCP urges field hearing on state of salmon

Tribal consortium, AFN call for fisheries disaster declaration

A nonprofit tribal consortium representing 56 member tribes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is urging Alaska’s congressional delegation to hold a field hearing on the state of salmon in Alaska.

The resolution approved by the Association of Village Council Presidents notes that AVCP has worked on regional and statewide efforts going back to 1991, requesting that the state and federal governments declare federal fisheries disasters and provide relief funds for the region’s fishermen and their families.

The resolution, passed during AVCP’s 57th annual convention on Sept. 22, will also be presented during resolutions proceedings at the 2021 Alaska Federation of Natives convention, to be held virtually and in person Dec. 13-15 in Anchorage.

Passage of the resolution comes in the wake of a disastrous year for commercial and subsistence salmon harvesters in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Alaska, with both commercial and subsistence fishing banned for the length of the Yukon River due to weak salmon returns.

AVCP has also advocated for more resources and research in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region to help identify causes for the declines in return of salmon and participated in efforts like the AYK Sustainable Salmon Initiative to provide funds for addressing salmon research and restoration needs.

AVCP has also collaborated with the Kuskokwim River Intertribal Fish Commission, the Yukon River Intertribal Fish Commission, Bering Sea Elders Group and Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association to advocate for increased protection and preservation of precious subsistence resources.

AVCP and the AFN joined the state of Alaska on Sept. 17 in urging Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to declare a fisheries disaster on the Yukon River for 2021.

“Salmon have always been a staple of our diet and essential for the food security of the entire Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region” said Vivian Korthuis, chief executive officer of AVCP.  “When our smokehouses are unused and our freezers unfilled, we have no choice but to turn to store-bought processed foods.  This is expensive as it is unhealthy.” 

The collapse of Yukon River salmon runs means entire villages are unable to put up enough salmon for the winter or to earn the cash needed from the small commercial fishery there to purchase necessities to engage in other subsistence activities, AVCP and AFN told Raimondo. The severity and magnitude of the loss of salmon has caused widespread panic across many communities along the Yukon River, and that situation is compounded by high energy prices, the high cost of alternative sources of protein, supply chain disruption and risks associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they said.

AVCP has since 1964, provided social services, education, culturally relevant programs and advocacy for Western Alaska tribes.