BETHEL, Alaska — More than a few people out here in the windswept, far Western corner of the state wanted the trials last week of Kuskokwim River fishermen to be a moratorium on the bycatch of Chinook salmon even farther west in the Bering Sea.
There is no arguing the fact that some Kuskokwim kings, as they are often called in Alaska, end up dead in the nets of the $1 billion dollar trawl fishery that operates far away and out of sight over the horizon. The $1 billion question is how many.
Myron Naneng is president of the Association of Village Council Presidents, a political power in this region. The way he sees it, "the trawlers and managers of salmon have tried to minimize the impacts by saying only a certain percentage goes into this river or this stream.
"(But) since about 68 percent of their Chinook salmon are bound for the river systems in Western Alaska, why can't the bycatch -- if it numbers 50,000 or even 20,000 -- be reduced by 68 percent to allow for salmon to return to the river systems?
"Kuskokwim River is not the only river that is of a concern. Yukon River, Unalakleet (River) are having issues, too. We are not only looking at one river. But, the trials have brought forward this picture that no one was even considering to look at.
"Otherwise, as it is the standard operating procedure of the state of Alaska, let the river systems users continue to bear the burden of conservation."
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