2020 Season Summary of Postseason Subsistence Salmon Harvest Surveys

by ONC Staff

As some of you may know, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) Subsistence Division and Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC) conduct postseason subsistence harvest surveys each year in the fall after the salmon fishing season has ended.

Staff from ONC and ADF&G contact households in person or over the phone to collect information about subsistence salmon harvests in communities along the Kuskokwim River. This is a long-standing collaborative effort between ADF&G and ONC that has been in place since 1999. ONC technicians conduct surveys in Bethel, which is the largest community on the Kuskokwim, while ADF&G staff conduct surveys in several Kuskokwim River communities outside of Bethel. This project provides total subsistence salmon harvest estimates for the Kuskokwim River drainage, and would not be possible without community support.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, ONC and ADF&G revised the methods during the 2020 survey season. These revised methods offered alternative ways for households to participate in the survey and included options such as a self-administered mail-in survey as well as an online survey. In addition, technicians also conducted telephonic and in-person surveys.

Technicians were outfitted with all proper PPE and maintained adequate social distancing while conducting in-person surveys. The number of completed surveys was similar to past years, thanks to the hard work from ONC technicians and ADF&G staff.

ONC has a goal each year to conduct surveys with 25% of the households in Bethel, which for 2020 was 525 households. ONC staff exceeded this goal and was able to conduct 535 household surveys. ADF&G staff were able to conduct 1,257 surveys in outlying villages along the Kuskokwim, for a total of 1,792 surveys completed in 2020.

From the harvest data collected with these surveys, ADF&G has produced draft salmon harvest estimates for the Kuskokwim in 2020. In 2020, the total harvest estimate for all salmon species for the Kuskokwim Drainage was slightly over 151,000 fish. For the Middle and Upper Kuskokwim regions total salmon harvest was 20,244. For the Lower Kuskokwim region total salmon harvest was 118,850. Bethel’s total salmon harvest was 55,306. Lastly, for south Kuskokwim Bay communities, the total harvest was 12,105 salmon.

Data maintained by ADF&G from this postseason harvest monitoring project show that the average annual Chinook and chum harvests have steadily decreased over the past 3 decades while sockeye and silver harvests have remained more stable. Continuation of this project will build upon long-established salmon harvest trend datasets which will in turn help to inform management decisions.

If you have any questions about this project or would like to know more, please contact ONC Fisheries Biologists Danielle Lowrey, [email protected], and Katie Russell, [email protected], at 545-6001, or ADF&G project lead Chris McDevitt at [email protected] or 328-6103.