Just weeks before the salmon run begins in earnest, discussions are underway to form two inter-tribal fish commissions, one each for the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers.
Myron Naneng is the President of the Association of Village Council Presidents, which is coordinating the formation of the groups.
“What we feel is the state of Alaska has not managed the fisheries for sustained yield because they’re catering more to the commercial fishing interests rather than their own citizen,” said Naneng.
Naneng envisions a co-management structure where tribal leaders work very closely with government biologists. That would involve integrating the knowledge and experience of people who live on the river.
“The information that’s provided by people who only live during the summer time and end up moving during the winter are given more credence than some information that’s provided by someone who lives here locally,” said Naneng.
There a number of existing groups that allow public involvement and input into management concerns, like the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group. Naneng says that’s not a tribally recognized group and that managers should work directly with tribes.
“You need the people in the river system to work with you for the conservation of theses species, not a group of people that are appointed by the state or whatnot, saying we’re going to impose this. Because the authority remains with the state or federal agency. Yet the people in the village don’t feel they’re part of the solution, they may feel they’re part of the problem if they’re not involved,” said Naneng.
Naneng is expecting participation from villages located up and both rivers. A meeting is set for May 20th in St. Mary’s for the Yukon. Representatives will meet in Bethel for the Kuskokwim commission on May 28th at the ONC Community Hall.