Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak Coho Salmon Expansion Project
Over the years, Tribal elders continue to raise concerns over the decline of salmon returning to the Buskin River watershed. The Buskin River watershed is the most important source for subsistence fish for Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak (STK) Tribal members as well as the entire community of Kodiak. Although minimum escapement goals, as established by the State of Alaska Board of Fish, are currently being met, the recent returns for both Buskin River coho and sockeye salmon are among the lowest on record. To address these concerns, the STK NRD completed a basic limnological study of Buskin Lake and its associated tributaries to assess expanding the presence of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in un-utilized portions of the Buskin River watershed. In doing so, the STK NRD is testing the effectiveness of using a moist-air incubator to rear coho salmon eggs in a Buskin Lake tributary that was previously blocked by a perched culvert. As a result, 65,000 eyed-coho eggs were planted into “artificial” redds and, in the coming years, STK is monitoring the tributary for returning coho salmon.
Furthermore, in fulfilling the project goals, the STK is increasing Tribal capacity through involvement in fish culture and management practices; increasing the sport and subsistence fishing opportunities on the Kodiak road system; and providing important educational opportunities for Tribal youth. Over the course of this project a number of Tribal youth are being hired as interns, thereby increasing their understanding of salmon biology, and their spawning habitat needs and preferences.