Some good conservation news. The spring aerial survey of emperor geese tallied over 98,000 birds, the highest since 1982!! The population declined in the early 1980s and has struggled ever since. A couple of important differences between emperors and other geese: (1) most don't leave Alaska in fall; (2) they winter in the Aleutians where first year survival is quite low; (3) they get by on seaweeds, beach greens, berries and such--no fat corn or rice; (4) lots of factors add up to less productivity than Canadas or white-fronts; (5) emperor goose season has been closed since 1986, but some illegal hunting has persisted and some are taken in Russia, but not likely the cause of continued low population level.
Future?? The current 3-year average spring count is 81,875--just above the 80,000 level in Alaska and Pacific Flyway management plans that triggers discussions of some resumed harvest. I would not expect to see any dramatic opening of seasons in 2016--more likely a very restricted hunt, if any--but it is time to have a dialogue about whether minimal hunting can be sustained and reasonable goals for the near future.
For those who remember, the Y-K Delta Goose Management Plan was initiated in 1984 as a multilateral conservation effort for four goose populations, involving Alaskans and interest groups in Washington, Oregon, and California. Pacific white-fronted geese responded quickly and have been at record levels in the past 10 years; cackling geese increased quickly to over 200,000 and seasons were reopened in 1994--they have been stable at or near the goal; the Pacific brant population generally has been in good shape and increased to record levels (160,000) in recent years.
And finally, emperor geese seemed to be over the hump--for now. Thirty years of effort by many hunters, landowners, and managers should be appreciated--and the stewardship needs to continue.