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Russian and Canadian delegates to visit Alaska for salmon dialogue

This weekend, 15 delegates from Russia, Canada and Alaska will travel to the villages of St. Mary’s and Kaltag, with stops in Anchorage and Fairbanks, in an effort to exchange information about the shared salmon resource.

Anchorage-based Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association (YRDFA) coordinated the visit with funding from the Yukon River Panel and the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, Oregon. The exchange is meant to foster the relationship between the three nations that rely on salmon for their culture, food and livelihood. Other goals of the trip include educating delegates on Alaska’s system for governing subsistence rights and best practices in watershed management to benefit subsistence, sport and commercial user groups.

“Yukon River salmon are not responding well to conventional management approaches and are facing new challenges that will require longer-term strategies, new approaches and more understanding, cooperation and commitment from all fishing communities and users on the river,” said Don Toews, Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee member and Carcross Tagish Renewable Resources Council member. “The exchanges and teleconferences established by YRDFA and the panel some time ago were visionary in this regard and I am excited to be part of this exchange.”

The exchange program, which has been hosted on an annual basis by YRDFA and the Yukon River Panel, launched over a decade ago when a delegation of Canadians from the upper headwaters of the Yukon River visited the lower Yukon River village of Emmonak.

“The first exchange was incredibly effective in building new relationships among many Alaskans and Canadians that have enabled them to work together on the Yukon River Salmon Agreement and the important issue of Canadian origin Chinook and chum salmon management and conservation,” said Jill Klein, executive director of YRDFA.

From July 12-18, the delegates will visit the cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, in addition to taking a 5-day trip to the Yukon River to meet firsthand with fishing families from the villages of Saint Mary’s, Kaltag and Galena. The group will take boat trips to subsistence fishing sites and camps, as well as tour villages and commercial fish plants. They will also host evening community-wide discussions in Saint Mary’s on July 14 and Kaltag on July 16 to talk about fishery issues and share information about each country’s fisheries, families, communities and economies.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game braced for the worst salmon run on record this season, but numbers now indicate it is on track to be near the high end of the preseason outlook. YRDFA has been focusing efforts on positive messaging along the Yukon River, reminding villages to find alternatives to king salmon as a way to preserve the resource for future generations.

The exchange will include Russian delegates Eduard Anisimov, chairman of the Avacha Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East; Sergei Vakhrin, president of Kamchatka Regional NGO Saving Salmon TOGETHER and a well-known Kamchatka environmentalist, writer and publicist; Andrei Pyatko, chair of Kamchatka Federation of Recreational and Sport Fishing and chair of the Kamchatka Regional Sport-Fishing Championship; Tatiana Melnikova, indigenous events coordinator at the Geyser recreational center; Tatiana Vikhrina, advisor to Kamchatka Regional NGO Saving Salmon TOGETHER; and Natalia Pyatko, representative of Kamchatka indigenous people and head of the Kamtur tourist company.

Canadian delegates will include Pauline Frost, member of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, chair of the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee and board president of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Limited Partnership; Don Toews, former chief of fisheries for the Yukon, Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee member and Carcross Tagish Renewable Resources Council member; Michelle Telep, deputy chief for the Ta’an Kwach’an Council; and Franklin Patterson, First Nation member of the Nacho Nyak Dun Northern Tutchone.

The trip will be led by Alaskans Wayne Jenkins, deputy director of YRDFA, and Paige Drobny of Spearfish Research. They will be joined by Jill Klein, executive director of YRDFA, as well as many local leaders throughout the Yukon River region.

About Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association
YRDFA was created in 1991 in response to a disastrously low salmon run at that time. The association’s mission is to protect and promote all healthy wild fisheries and traditional cultures within the Yukon River drainage region by reducing stakeholder conflicts, coordinating an approach for fishers and tribes’ involvement in sustainable fisheries management, reducing threats to Yukon River salmon and their habitats throughout their lifecycles, preserving the subsistence way of life along the Yukon River and providing accurate and timely fisheries management information to all Yukon River residents.

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