by Akiak Native Community
The Akiak Native Community sent the following letter to the Federal Subsistence Board and Chairman, dated March 1st, 2019.
Akiak Native Community herein submits a Temporary Special Action Request (SAR) requesting that the Federal Subsistence Board take the following actions:
1) Close Federal public waters of the Kuskokwim River drainage to the harvest of Chinook salmon except by federally-qualified subsistence users possessing a community harvest permit between June 5, 2019 and July 1, 2019;
2) Reduce the pool of eligible harvesters within the Kuskokwim River drainage based on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Section 804 Subsistence User Prioritization that was implemented in 2017;
3) Consult with 33 federally-recognized Kuskokwim River Tribes named in the 2014 Office of Subsistence Management 804 analysis to establish an appropriate harvest allocation of Chinook Salmon to be distributed among named Tribes within the Kuskokwim River drainage.
Section 803 of ANILCA defines the term “subsistence uses” to mean “customary and traditional uses by rural Alaska residents” (ANILCA §803). Section 802(2) requires that ‘’non-wasteful subsistence uses of fish and wildlife … shall be the priority of consumptive uses … when it is necessary to restrict taking in order to assure the continued viability of a fish and wildlife population or the continuation of subsistence uses of such population” (ANILCA §802(2)).
Chinook salmon subsistence harvest within the Kuskokwim River drainage has declined precipitously within the past decade. The last time Amount Necessary for Subsistence was achieved for Chinook on the Kuskokwim River was in 2009. A poor projected run and harvest outlook for Chinook salmon for 2019 should trigger the responsibility of the Board to restrict the taking of Chinook salmon for subsistence uses on public lands of Alaska per the responsibilities specified in Section 802 of ANILCA. Failing to first restrict Chinook salmon harvest to federally-qualified subsistence users forgoes the Board’s additional responsibility to restrict within subsistence users when necessary (ANILCA §804).
We request that the Board take action to manage the waters within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge for subsistence harvest of Chinook salmon in order to fulfill the duties and responsibilities set forth in ANILCA. Such action will also uphold the Kuskokwim River InterTribal Fish Commission’s (KRITFC) and United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2015 agreement to negotiate for the purpose of reaching consensus on Kuskokwim River fisheries issues, and when necessary, negotiating to reach a mutually-beneficial compromise. No such obligation exists for the State of Alaska to negotiate with KRITFC because the Alaska Department of Fish & Game is not party to the agreement.
It is the Tribe’s opinion that in 2015, consultation between the YDNWR Manager and three KRITFC In-season Managers was successful. The KRITFC and YDNWR negotiated an agreement to provide a total allocation of 7,000 Chinook Salmon among 33 tribal communities using community harvest permits. YDNWR staff worked with one representative in each of the 33 KRITFC communities. KRITFC Member Tribe Representatives reported permit holders’ harvest to YDNWR staff each week between June 1, 2015 and June 30, 2015. Relationships and trust between KRITFC Tribes and YDNWR staff were strengthened due to frequent communication and consultation.
Akiak Native Community speaks neither on behalf of KRITFC nor its member tribes. Nevertheless, we believe an allocation model similar to the one employed in 2015 will work to ensure the viability of Chinook populations as well as continued opportunities for federally-qualified subsistence users of Chinook salmon. Allocation of Chinook harvest to federally-qualified subsistence users beginning June 1, 2019, will not preclude meeting Chinook escapement goals within the Kuskokwim River drainage.
Additionally, it will ensure the continued opportunity for subsistence uses by Alaska Natives, which includes subsistence uses of Chinook salmon. As Congress recognizes, subsistence is “essential to Native physical, economic, traditional, and cultural existence” (ANILCA §80 1 (1)).
We are committed to working together towards a sustainable future for our Salmon and Peoples.
Respectfully submitted by Ivan M. Ivan, Chief of the Akiak Native Community.