Tanana Chiefs Conference protests against Board of Fisheries

Alaska natives from the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim area walked out of a board of fisheries meeting in protest of the board's decision.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 10:50 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Alaska Natives from the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim area walked out of the Board of Fisheries meeting Sunday in protest of the board’s decision to vote against Proposal 140.

Proposal 140 would have reduced the allowed time for commercial fishing in the South Alaska Peninsula, limiting commercial interception of Chum Salmon which people in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim area rely on.

Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) sent out a press release saying they believe the decision by the Board of Fisheries violates a statutory obligation. “If the harvestable portion of the stock or population is not sufficient to provide a reasonable opportunity for subsistence uses, the appropriate board shall adopt regulations eliminating consumptive uses, other than subsistence uses,” states AS 16.05.258(b)(4)(A).

“We are incredibly disappointed with the decision to prioritize commercial fishing over the needs of our subsistence users throughout Alaska by disregarding their statutory obligations,” said Brian Ridley, Chief and Chairman of Tanana Chiefs Conference.

Some residents in attendance brought up concerns about harvest reports and the lack of salmon reaching the Yukon River. Concerns were also brought up regarding the failure of the state to adhere to an agreement between the U.S. and Canada that is meant to ensure Canadians have adequate access to salmon.

Chief Ridley remarked, “Sustainable salmon management or lack thereof is crucial to the 37 federally recognized tribes and organizations that Tanana Chiefs Conference serves because sustainable salmon management is critical for the ecosystems upon which our indigenous ways of life and food security depends. We must do everything in our power that salmon escapement goals are met. Even if that means foregoing some commercial harvest opportunities in area M. The more than 18 thousand people served by TCC have already taken the ultimate sacrifice by not fishing for salmon and not practicing our way of life for years. My question to all of you is what do you want your legacy to be? That under your watch the salmon went extinct on our rivers or that you helped prevent that and helped our salmon come back.”

Ridley also said he felt the Board of Fisheries had manipulated harvest data. He said when the board spoke about trends, they specifically chose small windows of data as part of that manipulation. Ridley also mentioned the state should not take necessary actions that affect Alaska Natives without having Native representation present.

“Most of my family is actually in Canada and the fact that we haven’t met the escapement for more than ten years and the last time it was met was when we stood down on the Yukon, that’s embarrassing. If we made a mistake, it was trusting the state to manage a resource that we managed for thousands of years with the basic traditional value of only take what you need,” said Ridley.

“The Board’s actions this week will not deter TCC or our tribes from continuing to do everything we can to ensure the protection of our salmon and our way of life,” said Chief Ridley.