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Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Kotzebue Sound Management Area
Fishing Information

Kotzebue Sound residents have relied on fish for cultural and nutritional sustenance for thousands of years. The Kotzebue Sound area includes subsistence fishing areas used by Point Hope, Kivalina, Noatak, Kotzebue, Kiana, Noorvik, Selawik, Ambler, Shungnak, Kobuk, Buckland, Deering, Shishmaref, and Wales. The role of salmon in the wild food diet varies from community to community, and is affected primarily by salmon abundance. Along the Noatak and Kobuk rivers, where runs of chum salmon are strong, many households’ activities in mid and late summer revolve around the harvesting, drying, and storing of salmon for uses during the winter. Chum salmon predominate in the Kotzebue district, comprising 65% to 90% of the subsistence salmon harvest. Small numbers of other salmon species are present in the district and harvested for subsistence uses (Fall et al. 2009: 25). Table 1 provides subsistence salmon harvest estimates developed through ADF&G Division of Subsistence household surveys between the years 1994 and 2004, when funding for continued annual subsistence fisheries harvest monitoring was lost. See:(Fall et al. 2009: Fig 3-2)

Communities that harvest few salmon typically harvest large numbers of nonsalmon fish, such as sheefish Stenodus leucichthys, whitefishes Prosopium and Coregonus spp., and Arctic char Salvelinus alpinus/Dolly Varden S. malma. In 2004, the last year Kotzebue area was surveyed, nonsalmon harvest information was collected in Ambler, Kiana, Kobuk, Noatak, Noorvik, and Shungnak. Those 6 communities harvested in 2004 an estimated 10,835 sheefish, 50,501 whitefishes, and 11,697 char, which local residents refer to as “trout” (Fall et al. 2009:33). ADF&G Division of Subsistence collected fish harvest data for 2007 in the villages of Noatak and Kivalina (see Magdanz et al. 2010). Kivalina residents harvested more than 54,000 fish in 2007, just over 610 of which were salmon species. Of the estimated 79,000 usable pounds of fish and shellfish harvested, the majority (86%) were Dolly Varden; saffron cod (“tomcod”) comprised just 2% of the total fish harvest, and salmon made up only 1% of the total. No other fish species provided even 1% of the estimated total community harvest (Magdanz et al. 2010:22). Noatak residents harvest more than 23,000 fish in 2007, of which 4,630 were salmon species. Of the estimated 78,500 usable pounds of fish harvested, the majority were Dolly Varden (43%), followed by chum salmon (32%), and whitefishes (18%) (Magdanz et al. 2010:43).