Courtesy of Alaska Department of Fish & Game Division of Subsistence. 

A resident of Larsen Bay practices subsistence fishing. 

Starting next month the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak and the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge will conduct a Kodiak Harvest Subsistence Survey. Their findings will be used by the Alaska Board of Fish and the Board of Game — the state's regulatory authorities for Alaska fish and wildlife  — to create regulations and management policies for subsistence harvesting, according to Jackie Keating. She is one of the principal investigators for this survey, and a subsistence research specialist at the Department of Fish & Game.

“These surveys are very important because of the need to quantify use of subsistence resources in Kodiak, so we can inform and educate policy makers about the critical customary and traditional links we have with our natural resources,” said Matthew Van Daele, the head biologist of the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak and the other principal investigator of the survey.

There are a lot of concerns over the state of subsistence harvesting in Kodiak, according to Van Daele. In Womens Bay, eelgrass beds have been decimated and the low return of sockeye salmon to the Buskin last summer was concerning, Van Daele said. 

In addition to collecting data points, the survey is also a time for the ADF&G to hear about the concerns that locals have, Keating said.

This survey is long overdue. Ideally, subsistence surveys should be done every 10 to 15 years, Keating said. There have been smaller surveys done on the island in the past two decades. Port Lions was surveyed in 2003, there was a salmon survey in 2012, and a comprehensive harvest survey in Old Harbor, Larsen Bay and Akhiok in 2019. However, there has not been a survey of the road system since 1993, according to Keating.

Kodiak is an expensive area to survey because of its size, Keating said. It will cost more than $300,000 to conduct the survey. The funding comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program. However, FRMP funding is only awarded every other year. Recently, a lot of Kodiak residents joined the Regional Advisory Council, which works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to determine areas in need of funding. These residents emphasize the need for this survey, Keating said. 

The Department of Fish & Game and the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak submitted a proposal for funding for this survey back in 2019, which was accepted. When the Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program gave them the funding for the survey, it was for the year 2020, but it had to be held off because of the pandemic, according to Van Daele.  

The survey will be done by surveying randomly selected households in the area. All of the data submitted is anonymous and participation in the survey is completely voluntary. Ideally, the survey will collect data from 250 households in the area. 

One of the challenges of conducting this survey is getting people to take it, according to Keating. People who are not subsistence harvesters are sometimes hesitant to respond, even though their input is needed, according to Keating. There is also a not-insignificant number of people who do not know what the survey is, let alone why it is important, she said. 

Research assistants will be contacting houses in person for the survey in February to March of this year. After that, the data collected will be analyzed and open to community review at the start of 2023. Ideally, the survey will be completed later that year, Keating said.

For anyone interested in applying to work as a paid research assistant for the survey or learning more about subsistence fishing opportunities in Kodiak, there will be a meet and greet from 6:30-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18 on the Abercrombie side of the Bayside Fire Hall outside.

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