AVCP hosts State of Our Salmon Convention
Tribal leaders from the 56 villages within the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) service area gathered last week for the purpose of working towards conserving Chinook salmon by developing plans to better incorporate tribal involvement in salmon management through their migratory route.
AVCP Board Chairman Ray Watson and President Myron Naneng welcomed guests, special presenters, and tribal members to the first State of Our Salmon special convention beginning on March 3rd, 2012. Naneng gave the overview and purpose of the conference.
“The rest of the state wants to know the opinions of what our people have regarding the management of Chinook salmon,” said Naneng during his opening address.
Occurrences on the high seas, fish disease, and fisheries occurring along the migratory routes are all factors in impacting the escapement of Chinook salmon, he said.
Also in attendance were local experts representing their fishing areas on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers who shared their testimonies and perspectives, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife fish biologists, area managers, and policy directors. Guest speakers also included Representative Bob Herron, ADF&G Commissioner Cora Crome Campbell, and Inuit Circumpolar Conference Alaska Chair Jim Stotts. A resolution to call for the special convention was passed by resolution during the 2011 AVCP Annual Convention.
“We are talking about our food security here within our region. 50% of more of subsistence harvest of salmon occurs here on the Kuskokwim and the Yukon combined within the state of Alaska,” said Naneng.
Villages need to work together to see how we can force our state and federal managers to work with us to start seeing how much salmon is being exported outside the region, he included.
“Our people have survived on this resource for centuries. Within our region we are talking about the subsistence fisheries for the benefit and food for our people. Opportunities to teach our children how we work to harvest the salmon, working as a family, is decreasing almost every year it seems like,” he said. “It’s affecting our lives, the welfare of our people, and our family cohesiveness.”
Naneng said that our villages need to work with the tribal delegation and with the guests from other parts of the state to come up with a plan that will fully involve our people in the management of the fisheries.
“Enough is enough…we need to work with the information that we have that is provided by everyone and we need to provide them with information that they can use from our observation to help make determinations in the management of fisheries,” he said. “That is the objective of this convention, and also the objective is to work more closely together with our neighbors – people up the Kuskokwim, people out in the Bering sea, people on the Yukon, near the Canadian border and beyond. And come up with suggestions and recommendations that we can come up with from this convention.”
Concerns for making sure there is enough Chinook salmon for future generations, ensuring food security, reducing salmon bycatch, and working together were reoccurring themes at the 3-day conference.
On the first morning of the conference, Representative Bob Herron gave a legislative update on the status of bills regarding Chinook research funding.
“What’s the best way for tribal involvement for salmon?” he asked the delegation. “It is time to listen, time to come together, break down the walls in the region and figure out what is best for all of western Alaska…and leaving enough for our future families.”
The first of several panels also addressed the delegation. Rubin Hill of Hooper Bay (Coastal Yukon), Dora C. Moore of Emmonak (Lower Yukon Y1), Nick Andrew Sr. of Marshall (Lower Yukon Y2), Orville Huntington of the Tanana Chiefs Conference (Wildlife & Parks Director), comprised the Yukon River panel representing all areas of the Yukon from the coast all the way to Canada. Elizabeth “Betsy” Jackson of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council of Whitehorse, who traveled the farthest, also sat on the panel. Each gave their perspective and shared experiences.
For the Kuskokwim Panel, speaking were Frank Fox of Quinhagak, James A. Charles of Tuntutuliak, Trapper John Andrew, George Morgan Jr., and Daniel Esai of Nikolai representing the headwaters of the Kuskokwim.
On Wednesday, the convention heard presentations about the research and information about Yukon and Kuskokwim Chinook salmon stocks and the issue of salmon bycatch.
During the question and answer session President Naneng, speaking about fishing closures asked what management plans ADF&G will consider, directing his question to Commissioner Campbell and Larry Bell - USFWS Assistant Regional Director for the External Affairs Program, mentioning even issuing subsistence permits within some communities because they are trying to conserve the resources. Naneng continued to say that over the years that what he has observed more often throughout his attendance of Board of Fish and federal subsistence board meetings is that the burden of conservation of salmon has always been placed on the users within the river system.
“How responsible are you going to be to the people here on the river systems, as much as I know the Board of Fish has special interests that they need to fulfill first before they consider the subsistence needs of our people?” he asked. “That is why we are saying we need to be involved directly in one form or another in the management of the fisheries.”
One question that Commissioner Campbell said she did want to respond to was the question regarding for what is going to be happening for the upcoming salmon season for the Yukon and the Kuskokwim.
“We’re in the preseason planning process right now for what is going to be happening in the upcoming season on both the Yukon and the Kuskokwim and that is an open process that involves input from the users on both rivers. It is a collaborative process between state and federal managers. So a lot of questions about what can be expected about the coming season has yet to be determined…those kinds of questions that are beign asked are questions we want to hear from users about to make plans for the coming season,” said Campbell.
An outspoken villager, David O. David of Kwigillingok, advised managers that issues regarding subsistence resources need to be brought forth to the aboriginal people living in this land since time immemorial before such policies are put in place.
“Man’a umyuaqekiciu mat’um kinguani. Aptevkenata wangkuta mat’um nutem yuini alerquutnek taqucunrici wangkuta atuurkamtenek. Apqauraarluta taqutelarci, allanruuci,” he said. “Please remember from this day forward. Before you make policies that affect our people, you who are not traditionally from here need to ask us first about these things.”
The afternoon session concluded with the convention breaking into two groups – the Yukon group and the Kuskokwim group – for discussion and action planning to draft resolutions and recommendations to be approved by the AVCP Executive Board.
Five resolutions were drafted, ready for revising by midday on Thursday. Resolution 12-03-01 called for the establishment of an Inter-Tribal Fish Commission for the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. Resolution 12-03-02 was entitled Establishing at least one Tribal Seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Resolution 12-03-03 is Reduction of Chinook and Chum Salmon By-Catch in the Bering Sea Pollock Fishery and in the Russian Economic Zone. Resolution 12-03-04 is Expressing Full Support for HB 332 – Establishment of “The Alaska Chinook Salmon Research and Restoration Endowment Fund”. And Resolution 12-03-05 is Authorizing AVCP to apply for a Tribal Grant under the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.
The resolutions were awaiting final signatures by Friday of last week.