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BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — The tribal commission formed to co-manage the Lower Kuskokwim’s fish has laid out an approach to protect the river’s salmon, voting down a resolution to allow larger nets that would catch bigger fish.

The Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, made up of the 33 tribes that live along the river, met Monday for its annual meeting, KYUK-AM reported .

“There was a consensus that we are managing for conservation, and there is a consensus that we want to rebuild our salmon stocks and have abundance again,” said Mary Peltola, the commission’s executive director.

The commission voted against the proposal to allow 8-inch (20-centimeter) mesh gillnets on the river. The larger mesh would catch larger fish, which carry more eggs.

Commission members want those fish to make it to spawning grounds.

The commissioners hope to unite people on the 700-mile (1,126-kilometer) river and overcome long-standing divides separating the lower, middle and upper segments. The salmon arrive in each area at different times. When each area should be open to fishing has been a topic of discussion for years.

“So that’s always kind of an ongoing relationship-building exercise is making sure that people from the communities across the river know each other, and understand each other, and can communicate well with each other,” Peltola said.

The Commission will only co-manage the river if the feds take over management of the Lower Kuskokwim from the state under the federal government’s authority to manage subsistence.

That’s what’s happened the past several years of low king salmon runs and appears likely to happen again. The Federal Subsistence Board will make that decision May 16 and 17.


Information from: KYUK-AM,