The tribal groups signing the petition mostly represent areas of Alaska where salmon runs have crashed or declined dramatically in recent years.
Federal bycatch data shows trawl fisheries in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska this year have caught tens of thousands of chinook salmon, millions of pounds of halibut and hundreds of thousands of crabs.
It is still a mystery to state biologists why king and chum salmon numbers are decreasing in Western Alaska. But ask any local fishermen on the Kuskokwim, and they’ll likely tell you commercial fishing trawlers in the Bering Sea are the problem.
Subsistence fishing on the lower Yukon River is closed for both king and chum salmon. Residents who usually depend heavily on the fish are pivoting toward other ways to get meat.
The kings, coho and chum that trollers are catching are smaller in size than recent averages.
A study published last year identified multiple climate and habitat changes that are suppressing chinook runs in Southcentral Alaska.
The change is aimed at keeping the region’s sport harvest of chinook within a target allocation of 37,900 fish.
More than 30 riverside communities depend on chinook and chum as a main source of protein for the winter.
Yukon River subsistence fishing will be closed until the return size is clearer.
It would have been the first king salmon derby in Ketchikan since 2017.