Kuskokwim Management Area: Salmon Escapement, Harvest, and Management
John C. Linderman, Jr. and Daniel J. Bergstrom
Abstract.—The Kuskokwim Management Area supports subsistence, commercial, and sport fisheries for salmon. The area includes the Kuskokwim River, which is the second largest river system in Alaska, and the drainages that flow into Kuskokwim Bay, notably the Kanektok and Goodnews rivers. The salmon fisheries in the region are managed to achieve spawning escapement goals. When salmon abundance is projected to exceed these goals, managers allow harvest by the subsistence, commercial, and sport fisheries. If the harvestable surplus is limited, the subsistence fishery has a priority to access these salmon over the commercial and sport fisheries. This paper describes the status of salmon stocks, fisheries, and management practices used in the Kuskokwim River and Bay. Abundance of Kuskokwim area salmon stocks have been increasing during the 2000s since the poor runs that occurred from 1998 through 2000. Chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, chum salmon O. keta, and sockeye O. nerka salmon stocks have achieved above average to record escapements since 2004. Although abundance of coho salmon O. kisutch has decreased in recent years, they achieved a record run in 2003. In most years, escapement goals have been met or exceeded. “Amounts necessary for subsistence” have been achieved for most species each year since 2001, with the exception of sockeye salmon in 2002. Although overall salmon abundance has increased in recent years, commercial fishery harvest has remained below historical averages, primarily because of poor salmon markets, low commercial fishing effort, and limited availability of commercial processing. Expanded escapement monitoring, the development of new escapement goals, estimation of total run sizes, effects of selective fishing, and improvement of commercial markets are all areas for future management and research focus.