Subsistence harvest of emperor geese on hold until 2017

Emperor geese at Adak Island. (US Fish & Wildlife photo)
Emperor geese at Adak Island. (US Fish & Wildlife photo)

A subsistence harvest of the Emperor goose, which had been proposed for the spring of 2016, is being put off another year.

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The emperor goose is a medium-sized bird with a white head and neck, black throat, and bluish-gray body. Also called “beach geese,” emperors nest along the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta coast, and winter in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island.

After hitting a low of about 42,000 in 1986, emperor goose numbers have steadily climbed. The most recent count put the goose population above 80,000 – the threshold set by the Pacific Flyway Management Council to allow some limited hunting.

So the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council (AMBCC) has been working to establish an emperor goose season for 2016.

An overall limit was set at 3500 birds, but the AMBCC is having a hard time deciding how to allocate those birds between the regions that see emperor geese.

Gayla Hoseth is the Bristol Bay representative to the AMBCC. She gave an update at a recent subsistence regional advisory council meeting in Dillingham.

“So 3500 would have to be divided between four regions: Kodiak, Aleutian-Pribolofs, Bristol Bay, YK Delta, and the Norton Sound area,” said Hoseth. “Bristol Bay would have got 500 emperor geese. Then we were sent with homework to bring back to our regional councils – how are we going to divvy up the 500 birds within Bristol Bay?”

The regional councils each met this fall to come up with their own allocation strategies – whether it be household allocations, individual harvest tags, or some other system. Bristol Bay’s council, the Yaquillrit Keutisti Council (YKC), opted to have local hunter’s lists.

All the regional representatives brought their region’s plans to the AMBCC’s fall meeting in Fairbanks.

Of course, every region decided on something different,” said Hoseth.

In the end, the native caucus of the AMBCC decided it needed more time to come to a consensus on how the geese should be managed.

“We want it to be true co-management,” says Hoseth. “We want the state, the feds, and the native caucus to be present and to revise that plan. So we chose not to harvest in 2016, to revise the plan, and we’ll have a harvest in 2017.”

Also at issue was the time frame of the proposed harvest – it would have been open from April through August.

Courtenay Carty, Bristol Bay’s alternate representative to the AMBCC, says that a spring and summer harvest wouldn’t be fair to hunters in regions where the geese are found in the fall.

“On the Alaska Peninsula and in the Aleutian Islands, they’re there in the fall and early spring,” explained Carty. “[The geese] would be inaccessible for hunters to harvest based on that time frame, and that was another big arguing point as to why we would wait.”

The next statewide meeting of the AMBCC is scheduled for April 6-7 in Bethel. The next YKC meeting will be held in Togiak.