Nine harvesters cited for dumping commercially caught chum salmon

In a special enforcement operation designed to protect Alaska’s fisheries resource, state wildlife troopers have issued 21 citations after over 100 vessel boardings in the Area M fishery, including nine citations for illegal discard of commercially caught salmon.

Each of the individuals cited must appear before a judge, said Austin McDaniel, communications director for the Alaska Department of Public Safety. Each one was given a mandatory court date, but meanwhile is allowed to continue fishing, he said.

The citations are all misdemeanors, with a maximum punishment of a $15,000 fine and one year in jail.

Serena Fitka, executive director of the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, said she now feels that state fisheries officials are taking the issue more seriously. 

People living in communities along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers have for years contended that the Area M commercial fleet, in the False Pass area of Southwest Alaska, were taking salmon heading for natal streams in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region. What with the crash of chum salmon stocks, no commercial or subsistence fishing has been allowed in recent years by Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers residents, for which salmon is a culturally significant food that they have depended on for generations to feed their families.

Area M Seiners Association, which represents Area M seine and set gillnet permit holders, issued a statement saying that the association takes this issue very seriously and has a zero-tolerance policy for malicious behavior. The association said they have reviewed the citation and evidence provided by state troopers for one of their member vessels operating in various fisheries in the Alaska Peninsula, which they said consisted of a single gilled fish being cleaned from the net after conclusion of the final set of the June fishery.


The association said the vessel involved was an active participant in the voluntary fleet-management program and they feel there was no ill intention and support the vessel in pursuit of legal action.

While the adaptive management plan was in place from June 10 to June 28, the fleet implemented 26 voluntary stand-down events, in addition to the existing scheduled closures and in-season extended closures in the Shumagin Islands, in order to avoid chum salmon present on the fishing grounds, they said.

The association said the fleet and the state fisheries board had worked tirelessly to cooperate and increase information sharing and that vessels have responded by either moving or standing down every time requested.

While news of potential violations is disheartening, they cannot let this news discredit efforts the fleet has made to reduce chum harvest while trying to have a viable sockeye salmon fishery, they said.