"Not only is fish important, but also big game such as caribou and moose. It’s our main diet throughout the year, so it’s very important” - Melvin Andrew, Tribal administrator for the Manokotak Village Council.
A restricted caribou hunt on the Nushagak Peninsula means that Manokotak has far fewer subsistence opportunities this season.
Melvin Andrew is the Tribal administrator for the Manokotak Village Council. It's the village closest to the peninsula, and he says the caribou there are integral to the village’s way of life.
“Hunting is a big thing, especially for subsistence of big game such as moose and caribou,” says Andrew. “Caribou is one of the things that we utilize because it’s just down from our river system, Igushik. Not only is fish important, but also big game such as caribou and moose. It’s our main diet throughout the year, so it’s very important.”
Only five bull caribou can be harvested in the area this season, and all five permits went to residents of Manokotak.
The reduced quota is a drastic shift from last season’s hunt, when managers allowed for around 300 animals to be harvested. But this summer’s population estimates were between 200-250 animals, about half of what they expected.
The Nushagak Peninsula Caribou Planning Committee recommended that the state give the five permits to the village council. The committee advises the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on its management decisions regarding the herd. The Manokotak Village Council has a representative on the committee to advocate for hunting opportunities for the village.
Fewer than 450 people live in Manokotak, and travelling out of the community can be expensive. Andrew also says that often prevents hunters from travelling to hunt other herds such as the larger Mulchatna herd, which ranges across much of eastern Bristol Bay, along the Mulchatna and towards the Nushagak River.
“We don’t have air transport to either hunt on the other side of the Nushagak peninsula — the west side of the Nushagak peninsula, we’re very limited to the area we can hunt peninsula herd.” Andrew recalls, “Years ago when there was no moose around here, we did hunt for moose up the Nushagak river, we went all the way up to mulchatna and we were lucky enough to get some caribou too.”
The village council distributed the five permits for bull caribou at the beginning of the month. The hunt closes at 11:59 p.m. on September 20.
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