State of Alaska and Yukon River Subsistence Fisheries

Much has been made in news of late about the 2012 Yukon and Kuskokwim subsistence fisheries.  The atmosphere is antagonistic between Alaska Native fisherman and ADF&G fisheries managers.  Many parties tell of the federal responsibility to protect Alaska Native subsistence practices, while the state of Alaska insists on managing all aspects of wildlife.  Perhaps several facts are finally overlooked when negative exchanges take place between the differing parties: that (1) Alaska Native fisherman are citizens of the state of Alaska, and (2) the administration of the state of Alaska is responsible to all citizens of the state of Alaska.  Whether Alaska Native fisherman identify as fisherman or as tribally enrolled members of federally recognized tribal governments, all participatory processes for the management of riverine fisheries are open to all individuals involved.  The state of Alaska may have difficulties officially recognizing the political and social sovereignty of tribal governments in Alaska, however individual Alaska Native fisherman can and do participate in the management processes under ADF&G.  It is my impression rather than waiting on ambivalent federal fish and game managers to step into the cross-fire, individual Alaska Native fisherman can very well  begin participating through several channels how they think ADF&G should manage Yukon River subsistence fisheries.

The direct channel into ADF&G subsistence fisheries management is through the Community Subsistence Information System, managed by the Subsistence Fishing Division.  The CSIS is new, and is open to public comment on how the system shall be structured in the future to gather and collect subsistence fisheries information, which would then be used for the management of subsistence fisheries.

The federally recognized tribal governments in Alaska can also consult with the ADF&G on fisheries policies through the ADF&G department policy on government to government relations between the state of Alaska and federally recognized tribal governments.  Several restrictions apply to tribal consultation, according to the document, such as:

“Exclusions. The following actions are exempt from this policy: department participation in investigations relating to actual or suspected violations of state law, and initiation of the civil or criminal justice process; adjudicatory and rule-making decisions of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission; emergency order (EO) announcements and management actions; preseason management strategies, outlooks, or forecasts.”

and,

“Exclusions. The following actions are exempt from this policy: department participation in investigations relating to actual or suspected violations of state law, and initiation of the civil or criminal justice process; adjudicatory and rule-making decisions of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission; emergency order (EO) announcements and management actions; preseason management strategies, outlooks, or forecasts.”

The ADF&G consultation policy was drafted in 2002 and it is unknown how often the policy has been utilized by federally recognized tribal governments in Alaska.  The policy is apparently in place and any federally recognized tribal government can take the opportunity to consult with ADF&G, and very certainly question why the above restrictions are in place and suggest that no restrictions be in place at all for tribal consultations in the future.

It has been said in many places that the state of Alaska does not favor the practices of Alaska Native hunting and fishing, nevertheless the state of Alaska is responsible to all citizens of the state of Alaska whether they live in the cities or in the villages, and if Alaska Native fisherman participate in the management of subsistence fisheries and suggest management practices as one or many see fit, the ADF&G can only acquiesce.

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