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Thread: Subsistence proxy fishing with a commercial gillnetter?

  1. #1
    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    Default Subsistence proxy fishing with a commercial gillnetter?

    Last August in PWS a commercial gillnet boat was running his gear entirely across a small coastal stream with wild runs of silvers and pinks. When asked, he said he was subsistence fishing under an proxy agreement with a local native villiage member. I support the concept and practice of subsistence fishing, but these commercial quantities of wild salmon were for sure not going to feed families and neighbors. They were to be sold on the commercial market, without the restrictions on where commercial boats can fish, but I understand only when there were commercial openers. These small wild runs cannot sustain commercial fishing, that is why there are no commercial fishing signs posted, yet this commercial subsistence fishing is largely unregulated...what is going on?? Yes, we checked with the Eastern PWS biologist, and he said this was perfectly legal and didn't seem concerned. How can this type of commercial fishing be sanctioned under the label of subsistence? And, be allowed to net across an entire wild run day after day during the spawning run?

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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    Did they tell you they were selling them? Did you witness them fish there day in and day out? How many did they catch? There are subsistence families that use a lot of fish. Have you ever seen some of the fish houses along the yukon, they have a ton of fish hanging in them. I agree that fisheries can't be sustained if commercial fishing is happening day after day in the rivers/creeks, but I am not sure this is what you observed. Please correct me if I am wrong, I am only speculating
    Responsible Conservation > Political Allocation

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    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    Hoose...those are good questions, I would have answered earlier but was tied up until late tonight. Yes, I did witness them fishing day in and day out, then they left for two days, then came back and ran their nets some more days. Several very reliable other people also witnessed this, and asked the boat operator, who appeared to be a Caucasian, what he was doing, and he was very forthright, nothing furtive or anything here. I don't know how many fish he caught, I had my own private fishing to do, but his net was strung entirely across this small coastal stream, and every time I passed by he sat deeper in the water, then he left and when he came back he was sitting high in the water, and was there for 2-3 days and then was deep in the water again. No, he wasn't bobbing up and down, it was calm. Maybe 5-6 seiners also came into the fiord where this stream is, and a tender...didn't get it's name, but do have the name of the boat in question and it's operator, but I am not trying to get him in trouble, and won't disclose his boat or name here. He went back by the tender one day, as did some of the seiners. Now, I don't think he was doing anything illegal, as a discussion was had with the subsistence manager of Eastern PWS by one of the other people observing all this with me, a lodge owner, who was told yes, this was now legal under subsistence. Because the silver run which should have been underway was very weak, and never really materialized last year, and the pink run in this stream was still going strong, I believe the fish he caught were mostly if not all pinks. The village where the proxy fishing was being done for an individual is Tatitlek. If anyone here is from that villiage, perhaps they can correct me in my presumption that they would not eat thousands of pinks...the boat owner also said yes, that he was selling the fish, that this was allowed under this type of subsistence fishing. And, he and the AKFG Subsistence Manager said that it was legal for him to fish inside the no commercial fishing markers, in fact he could fish anywhere he wanted as long as there was a commercial opener so that he had somewhere to take the fish to sell, and the AKFG manager confirmed this.

    My concern here is primarily what this is doing to a wild, small salmon population, and also in the larger picture of subsistence, which I absolutely support, including "tons" caught along the yukon by set nets run from skiffs (I don't think they use bowpickers) for personal food and for feeding dog teams, including families, neighbors and in particular that elders may have their traditional foods. No problem there, but if this large-scale commercial fishing with fish sold to big processors is being done under subsistence, that could lead to strong and perhaps successful challenges to subsistence. Mainly, I just want to know if what we observed is truly allowed under the rules of subsistence, and if so, why! I am not trying to get any particular individual in trouble or looking out for my particular personal interests, but I will disclose that good friends operate a lodge in the vicinity of this situation, and they are very concerned about their livelihood, with good cause. While this boat owner appeared to be operating within the law, why would a commercial fisherman run a net across such a small wild run, surely everyone understands this cannot be sustained...

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    Default Subsistence proxy fishing with a commercial gillnetter?

    I had similar questions about legality this year when I saw Kenai River Guides chartering their boats to personal use fishermen. It seems we need to tighten up some regulations on just what these fisheries are and how they can be prosecuted.

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    Member FishGod's Avatar
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    If it's a state subsistence fishery I don't think they can sell their catch. If it's a federal subsistence fishery, that's a different story.
    Your bait stinks and your boat is ugly

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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    Thanks for the response Capn, that sure doesn't seem like a subsistence fishery to me. I have seen some of what you described happen at packers creek, but it was allowed to happen as part of the cost recovery program, not subsistence fishing
    Responsible Conservation > Political Allocation

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    Regardless of the specific reasons for allowing this type of fishing (subsistence, commercial, cost recovery, etc) I find it hard to believe that it's biologically supportable. Netting off an entire stream and capturing a large number of pre-spawning adults seems counter-productive to good fishery management. I'm sure there is more to the story (e.g., the stream has already reached it's escapement goal when the fishing was allowed), but it is rather difficult to understand based on the information provided.

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    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    I might have heard in the conversations among us there that it might have been said this was a federal subsistence ruling...not sure, I will check on that and any other additional information I can find and let you all know. I do know for sure that there is no population measurement going on, no escapement goal etc. on this small stream. Six years ago there was a small run of BIG silvers that regularly went into a tiny stream across the fiord from the one I've been talking about, you could walk across it in about 4 strides, when the tide was up, and jump across upstream. This run always came in along one bank, and there was a no commercial fishing sign about 150 feet from the actual stream mouth. For three or 4 days (it was 6 years ago) a seiner parked just feet outside the sign, and ran his seine right up to and along this bank...I called a trooper and while I was unwilling to name the seiner, asked about this and he said as long as he was outside the sign he was legal. Well, I found that spot in 1997 and fished it every year...lightly, 3 silver limit....after 2006 I have never seen another fish there. Up until 2006 the entire fiord was off limits to commercial fishing, because, the biologist said, it would deplete the small native runs in those small coastal streams. Why were they opened up then?

    Now, the hatchery runs for the commercial fishing fleet in Valdez (well, out of Valdez, don't think most of them are from there) are great and seem sustainable, same as the red hatchery and fleet fishing Main Bay. But, they shouldn't kill off these little runs, they are just not suited for commercial fishing. And, commercial fisherpeople need to have and nurture a partnership with private sport fishers and charters and lodges, together they can keep fishing a sustainable resource; keep pushing for the last fish, any of them, and we will all lose. Commercial boats should not be used for "subsistence" nor for personal use, IMO. Anyway, I will find out more about this subsistence situation I described here.

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