BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — A group of Alaska fishermen have formed an organization they hope will help revitalize commercial salmon fishing in Kuskokwim Bay.
The Independent Fishermen of Quinhagak Cooperative will approve fish harvesters for work with the regional buyer, KYUK-AM reported Saturday.
The cooperative board has so far approved 70 anglers to participate and limited the cooperative’s eligibility to harvesters living in the villages of Quinhagak, Goodnews Bay, Platinum, and Eek.
The buyer, E&E Foods, will turn away anglers who have not been approved by the group, the cooperative said in a statement.
The Kuskokwim Bay in Southwest Alaska was scheduled for a 12-hour commercial opening start on Monday, the area’s first commercial fishing slot in five years.
Participants are limited to nets with 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) of mesh or less.
Subsistence fishing has been closed for 24 hours Monday to allow commercial fishing in the bay.
A processor ship is scheduled to be anchored in Goodnews Bay to buy salmon from approved anglers. A tender is expected to travel to Quinhagak and purchase salmon from anglers in the community.
Goodnews Bay is near the Goodnews River, while Quinhagak is near the Kanektok River.
The Kuskokwim Bay commercial fishery closed in 2016 when processing was halted by the Coastal Villages Region Fund, a seafood operation with 20 member communities.
The fund recently donated all its processing equipment in Quinhagak to the city, including two dock cranes, a forklift, an ice boat, and two ice machines.
The reopening comes as salmon returns to the Kuskokwim River are lower than projected and may meet the minimum bounds of the state’s escapement goals.
The timing of the commercial opening makes it unlikely any Kuskokwim King salmon would be harvested in the fishery, state biologist Nick Smith said.