Beaver Round Up! On the shores of the Nushagak... we all know and love the song. From sled dog races to piles of pelts, learn about what Beaver Round Up used to be like and how it's changed on this edition of By the Bay.
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Beaver Round Up is underway this week and into the weekend. The festival began in 1958 as a celebration of trappers returning with their furs to Dillingham.
For a little history and perspective on how the festival has changed over the years, we caught up with Russel Nelson and Joanne Nelson, Russel’s mom. Russel is the director of facilities for the Dillingham City School District. Joanne has lived in Dillingham since 1952. She’s retired; she used to work in the Marine Advisory Program with the University of Alaska. Here's Izzy's conversation with them.
Oscar Flensburg has lived in Dillingham all his life, and he said that over the years, Beaver Round Up has gotten earlier and earlier. I talked to Oscar at his house. (His dog Bristol was nosing around the microphone if you hear any dog noises.)
Like Russel and Joanne mentioned, Oscar said that trapping has become less economically viable over the years.
Now, you might have heard Russel mention David Green, a fur buyer from Anchorage, and Oscar talked about David, too.
A few shrewd hunters found the Crystal beavers hidden around town. On Wednesday Craig Maines and his family found the first beaver at 3:30 p.m. at the Star Flight hangar by the Cracker Box at the Dillingham airport. On Thursday, Mystery Beaver #2 was found in a hallway light fixture outside Choggiung’s Office by Kristine Tinker and Nicole Krause. Today, Justine Wassily found the crystal swan near the old Curyung Tribal Office building. Jenny Bennis found the last crystal beaver at the Elementary Playground behind the snowball target.
BBCTE achieved official regional status last year by bringing the Dillingham City School District into the fold. The program is now available to all high school students in Bristol Bay.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries has disbanded the special committee created to address management of King Salmon in the Nushagak fishing district. The board took the action at its Upper Cook Inlet Finfish meeting earlier this month.
The committee was created as a result of proposals at the 2018 Board of Fish meeting in Dillingham. The committee was tasked with creating a mechanism to pair restrictions on both the commercial and sport fisheries to conserve king salmon. It was meant to review the district’s sport and commercial king management plans and advising the board on a comprehensive solution.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said the reason for the board’s decision was that it found the committee’s initial goals seemed "difficult to achieve." Here’s Board member Reed Morisky, speaking about the committee’s first meeting, held last October.
King runs haven’t been strong in recent years. In 2017 and 2019 there were restrictions in the sport fishery because of poor king escapement. In 2018 the commercial fishery was restricted due to low king escapement.
Tim Sands, the area management biologist for the Nushagak District, said that the committee was formed to reassess the king management plan in the face of lower king runs.
At the Board of Fish meeting in late 2018, the king management plan was changed, removing automatic triggers to restrict sport fishing, which were based on sonar counts. Now, Sands said, those intermediary steps are gone, and the sport fishery can only be restricted to catch and release or closed.
Sands said that looking ahead, they have to continue to discuss how to balance commercial and sport fisheries.
If the King Salmon escapement is projected at below the lower end escapement of 55,000, the sockeye fishery has to stay closed until 100,000 sockeye are projected up the Wood River.
This year, Sands says, they will likely be even more conservative in their management, and will probably wait until twice as many sockeye pass the Wood River Tower before they open up fishing in the district.
The Port of Bristol Bay in Naknek is the second most valuable port in the U.S. That’s according to an annual study by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The port’s value increased by more than $40 million in commercial fishery landings between 2017 and 2018. In last year’s report, Naknek ranked third. Read the story here.
A few weeks ago, we talked to a few people involved with the Pebble Partnership’s compensatory mitigation plan. Last month, Pebble released a proposal to offset its proposed mine project’s potential impacts to wetlands. Compensatory mitigation iss part of the Clean Water Act, and it usually means restoring or protecting wetlands that serve the same purpose as those being altered or destroyed by development.
But there’s a catch: Bristol Bay’s wetlands are almost untouched, so they wouldn’t need restoration. For Alaska’s Energy Desk, Izzy reported on how Pebble is proposing to offset its impacts by repairing sewer systems instead.
In 2017, Gissa Reigh wrote a poem for the talent portion of the Little Miss Beaver Round Up pageant. She was 10 at the time, and she ended up winning. In the spirit of the festivities, we’re going to play Gissa’s poem, recorded by our former News Director Avery Lill.