No Alaska region has been hit harder by dismal salmon returns this summer than communities on the Yukon River. The summer chum run of just 153,000 is the lowest on record.

Serena Fitka, director of the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, spoke to KYUK in Bethel.

“So, we’re talking really low numbers. This is really quite scary for everyone. These runs are low enough that no one on the river is subsistence fishing, and so it’s very dismal. Everybody in the communities, on the full river drainage, are feeling the hardship.”

Nearly10,000 pounds of chum and king salmon have been donated by Bristol Bay fishermen and processors with logistical assists by SeaShare and Kwik’pak Fisheries in Emmonak to send salmon to 11 villages.

Kwik’pak, typically a top employer each summer, has been able to put only a handful of people to work for a few days helping with the distribution said general manager, Jack Schultheis –

“It’s a big deal to the villagers to get fish. You know, it’s why they decided to live on this river, you know, it was a lot of fish in it. So we’re doing what we can to just expedite this and organize it so everybody gets their fair share.” 

Governor Dunleavy also directed an additional $75,000 to purchase more salmon from Alaska processors for donations. The Tanana Chiefs Conference and the Association of Village Council Presidents are helping with distribution.

Meanwhile, further west at Norton Sound a canceled chum fishery has been salvaged by a surge of pink salmon to the region. It’s expected to be the best catch since the 1990s, said Fish and Game area manager Jim Menard.

Two buyers are on the grounds in several locations – Norton Sound Seafood Products and Icicle Seafoods are paying 40 cents a pound for pinks, reported KNOM in Nome.

The catch through yesterday stood at 251,000 pinks. Locals hope an upcoming coho run might also provide for continued commercial fishing.