Anchorage Daily News
Yukon River salmon processor blames state for plant closure
The Associated Press
A fish processing plant in Kaltag that employs about 70 people from nearby villages shut down for the summer even though Yukon River chum salmon are plentiful, the operator said.Doug Karlberg, the operator of the plant, blamed a fishing time limit imposed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He said he believes a limit is unnecessary because his business does not target the Yukon's depleted king salmon.
However, a Fish and Game manager said the department had to impose the limit to protect king salmon and treat fishermen along the river equitably.
Karlberg, owner of Yukon River Gold, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner the agency left him too little time this summer to make money. He leases the plant from the city of Kaltag.
In order for the plant to make enough, Karlberg said he needs more fishing and processing time -- "about 35 days of processing time," he added. But the plant only had about 20 days to work on the chum run, he said.
Kings begin swimming up the river before the summer chums, but the two runs usually overlap for a few weeks. Regulators only allowed the fish wheels that supply the Yukon River Gold plant to begin operating once the kings had passed the Kaltag area.
"I was forced to close it down," Karlberg said. "And now we have a record chum run in the Yukon River, and the people are having to sit there with no jobs."
The seasonal plant employs about 70 workers from villages in the area.
Karlberg buys only chum salmon from local fish wheels. The wheels are monitored so any other types of fish, including king salmon, are immediately thrown back in the Yukon River alive and unharmed, Karlberg said.
The low bycatch prompted Fisheries International magazine, in its January edition, to name the Kaltag plant one of the best fisheries in the world.
Steve Hayes, Fish and Game's area manager, said some bycatch has been taken.
Hayes said he can't tell Yukon River subsistence fishermen that "every king counts, and they can't catch them" if he doesn't tell the same thing to commercial fishermen that supply Yukon Gold.
During four of the past five years, the Yukon River did not meet the king salmon escapement goals established by a treaty with Canada. Hayes said about half the Yukon's king salmon spawn in Canada's waters.
"We've had to be very conservative trying to protect these kings," he said. "Unfortunately, because of that, we've had to let a surplus of chum up the river."
Read more: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/07/13/v-lite/1743654_yukon-river-salmon-processor-blames.html#ixzz1SJ24jM6G