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Ninilchik tribe approved for Kenai River subsistence set-netting

By Daysha Eaton, KBBI - Homer

For years, the Ninilchik Traditional Council has been seeking approval to use a more effective method of catching their subsistence allocation of sockeye salmon on the Kenai River. Late last week, they got that opportunity. 

On July 27, the Federal Subsistence Board approved the tribe’s emergency special action request to operate a community subsistence set net fishery on the Kenai. Approval came after a lawsuit filed in 2015. Before, the tribe was approved for dipnetting and rod-and-reel subsistence fishing on the Kenai.

But the change has drawn stiff opposition from other fishermen and fisheries managers who worry about the new gear type’s potential effect on king salmon and trout.

Ninilchik is allowed to harvest up to 2,000 sockeye and voluntarily agreed to restrict its harvest to 50 kings for the shortened 2016 season. As of Sunday July 31, the Ninilchik tribe had harvested 33 sockeye and no king salmon since they began fishing on July 28.

The special action allows the tribe to operate the subsistence set net fishery in the federal waters of the Moose Range Meadows for the next two weeks, until Aug. 15.

Last year the Kenai Sockeye run numbered 3-point-6 million fish. For several years the number of Kenai king salmon returning to spawn has been below average, and king salmon sport fishing has been restricted or closed.