2024 Federal Preseason Subsistence Fishery Management Strategy for the Yukon Area

For Immediate Release:                                                                             Contact:  Holly Carroll
May 10, 2024                                                                                                              (907) 351-3029


2024 Federal Preseason Subsistence Fishery Management Strategy for the Yukon Area

The Federal Subsistence Board (Board) received special action request FSA24-01 asking the Board to close Federal public waters of the Yukon River drainage to the harvest of Chinook, Chum, and Coho salmon except by federally qualified subsistence users from June 1 through September 30, 2024, and to require that Federal subsistence fishing schedules, openings, closures, and methods be determined by the Federal Fisheries Manager. The Board approved FSA24-01 on April 15, 2024, because the closure was necessary for the conservation of salmon populations in Federal public waters. It also provides a priority for subsistence uses as required by Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).

2024 Federal Management Strategy:
Following the Board’s action to adopt FSA24-01 and after hearing feedback on the proposed federal management strategy through discussions at Tribal Consultations, the Yukon River Panel, and the preseason fishermen meeting, and after coordination with staff from the Office of Subsistence Management (OSM) and the management team from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), the Federal management strategy will be as follows:

• Federal public waters of the Yukon River drainage are closed to the harvest of Chinook, summer and fall Chum, and Coho salmon except by federally qualified subsistence users from June 1, 2024, to September 30, 2024, or until reopened by the Federal fisheries manager.
The Federal manager will close all salmon fishing to all users beginning June 1 in the Coastal District and lower river and these closures will move upriver based on salmon run timing and assessment data. During these closures, salmon gillnets will not be allowed.
• Fishing for nonsalmon will be allowed with 4-inch gillnets limited to 60 feet in length and operated as set nets only. There is not a conservation concern for nonsalmon species, so fishing opportunities for nonsalmon will not be limited to federally qualified subsistence users.
New for this year: To protect the migrating Chinook salmon, we may consider restricting the use of 4-inch or smaller mesh gillnets for approximately two weeks during high passage of Canadian-origin Chinook salmon to reduce the number that are incidentally caught. This closure would occur in the mainstem and follow Chinook salmon as they migrate up the Yukon River. While we understand the importance of liberal opportunity to fish for nonsalmon, fishermen concerned about potential harvest or drop-out of Chinook salmon have suggested this additional conservation measure.
• Other nonsalmon selective gear types, including hook and line, longline, jigging gear, hand line, beach seine, fyke net, spear, or lead may be used to fish for nonsalmon species all year, even during salmon fishing closures. All Chinook salmon incidentally harvested with nonsalmon selective gear types must be released alive.
• Even years are strong Pink salmon runs. The peak of the run overlaps more with the later part of the summer chum salmon run. Pink and Sockeye salmon may be targeted by hook and line gear and retained from nonsalmon fishing gear and selective gear when provided.
• There will be no commercial or sport fishing for Chinook and Chum salmon this season in Federal public waters. The salmon fishing closure to non-federally qualified users will not be removed unless salmon run abundances improve, reasonable subsistence fishing opportunity is provided, escapement goals are projected to be met, and harvest restrictions are no longer necessary for conservation. Based on the outlooks described below, this is unlikely.

Actions implemented under the management strategy outlined above will be based on the provisions of Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and the delegation of authority letter from the Federal Subsistence Board.

2024 Season Outlooks:
• The drainagewide Chinook salmon outlook is for a run size of 45,000 to 68,000 fish. For context, escapement goals are rarely met when the run is below 150,000 fish. Because of the poor projected run size, salmon fishing closures will be necessary to protect Chinook salmon as they migrate to their spawning grounds in Alaska and Canada. We have had historically poor returns of Chinook salmon to the Canadian border the past two seasons, and fewer than 15,000 Canadian origin Chinook salmon are predicted at the border this year. The current Canadian border passage goal is 71,000 Chinook salmon. This is why it is critical we let the Chinook salmon go by and avoid fishing 4-inch gear in areas where Chinook salmon will be caught.
• The drainagewide summer Chum salmon outlook is for a run size of 1.1 million fish, with a range of 550,000 to 1.8 million fish. Once the run is projected to exceed the lower end of the escapement goal of 500,000 fish based on the inseason counts, in late June there may be an opportunity for selective gear harvest of chum and in mid to late June limited 6-inch or smaller mesh gillnet and fish wheel openings for chum salmon. This depends on if the chum salmon runs are projected to meet escapement goals and if the majority of the Chinook salmon run is over at this time.
• The drainagewide fall Chum salmon outlook is for a run size of 369,000 fish, with a range of 263,000 to 474,000 fish. This run size may or may not be large enough to provide some subsistence fishing. The Canadian origin fall Chum salmon run has been weak in recent years, so mainstem Yukon and Porcupine river salmon fishing closures are likely necessary throughout the fall season.
• Some opportunity for fall Chum salmon may be provided in the Alaskan tributaries and lakes once escapement goals are met. The fall Chum salmon projection will be revised in July based on the 2024 summer Chum salmon run size.
• The forecast for Coho salmon is for a below average run. Harvest restrictions are likely necessary for this species but will be determined by inseason run abundance.
• Subsistence fishing restrictions may be relaxed earlier than October 1 in the Lower Yukon. This date will be transitioned upriver to fishing districts based on salmon migration timing.
• USFWS and ADF&G will review assessment data to determine if harvestable surplus becomes available inseason. If subsistence salmon fishing opportunities are offered, the Federal manager will issue special actions to open Federal public waters to the harvest of salmon by federally qualified subsistence users only to provide a rural preference. The special actions will be issued by the USFWS, separately from the ADF&G advisory announcements, and will include maps showing Federal public waters by district.
• If the Federal manager needs to take actions (such as closures) that last longer than 60 days (Temporary Actions), there will be a public hearing, so expect notice about this in late June/early July.

Federal Management Overview and Coordination:
• The Federal Yukon River inseason manager is delegated authority by the Federal Subsistence Board to issue management actions if necessary to ensure the conservation of a healthy fish population, to continue subsistence uses of fish, and for public safety reasons in Federal public waters of the Yukon River drainage.
• The Board requires that Federal subsistence fisheries management be coordinated with the Regional Advisory Councils (Councils), OSM, and ADF&G, to the extent possible.
• It is necessary to align Federal and State management actions to prevent conservation concerns and fishing competition. Misaligned regulations may cause a conservation concern for species as they move through the patchwork of State and Federal waters if harvest is allowed in some areas but not others. Additionally, if fishing is allowed in one area but not another, there could be increased competition as fishers crowd the open area. Therefore, coordinating between management agencies and aligning regulations benefits subsistence users and the sustainability of the runs.
• The Federal management team actively manages the fishery by bringing the Indigenous and local knowledge from fishers and Tribes to the decision-making process, prioritizing subsistence fishing when commercial fisheries for other abundant species are being considered, and advocating for as much annual subsistence harvest as can be sustained biologically to maintain important cultural and spiritual practices.
• The Federal management team has been invited to work with the Fish Commission at their upcoming meetings in May, and the Federal team hopes to continue to build relationships with the Fish Commission to coordinate on management decision making and co-stewardship.

For additional information concerning Yukon River Federal Subsistence fishery management contact Yukon River Federal Manager, Holly Carroll, at (907) 351-3029.

For information concerning State management actions, contact Yukon River Summer Season Manager, Deena Jallen, and Fall Season Manager, Christy Gleason, in Fairbanks at (907) 459-7274 or in Emmonak at (907) 949-1320.

Information about the Federal Subsistence Management Program may be found on the web at www.doi.gov/subsistence or by visiting www.facebook.com/subsistencealaska. Fishery special actions are posted here: https://www.doi.gov/subsistence/fisheries-special-actions

Missing out on the latest Federal subsistence issues? If you’d like to receive emails and notifications on the Federal Subsistence Management Program you may subscribe for regular updates by emailing fws-fsb-subsistence-request@lists.fws.gov.

See News Release for Detailed Maps of Federal Public Waters in the Yukon River Drainage:
Communities and streams adjacent to the boundary of Federal lands are part of Federal waters, even on the opposite side of the river.

Last edited 05/10/2024
Contact Information

Contact: Holly Carroll
(907) 351-3029

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