Alaskans: Be bear aware with fish waste
Fishermen, watch where you waste.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking you to dispose of any leftover fish parts and pieces in the appropriate areas. Tossing waste in the wrong places can be dangerous for bears and humans, plus it could lead to a fine.
“It’s fishing season and folks need to know that dumping fish carcasses in woodlots, greenbelts and parks can draw bears and is absolutely unacceptable and illegal,” agency spokesperson Ken Marsh said.
According to Marsh, there haven’t been any bear-related issues this summer caused by poorly discarded fish waste, but he said there have been problems in the past and still could be later this summer.
“We had one instance a couple of summers ago where a guy got charged by a brown bear off of Fairview Loop outside of Wasilla,” said Palmer wildlife biologist Tim Peltier. “We went in to investigate and found the bear had been defending a pile of (illegally discarded) salmon carcasses.”
On July 10, the Kenai River dipnet fishery will open for subsistence users. According to Fish and Game, Alaska fishermen harvest anywhere between 130,000 and 540,000 sockeye annually.
Marsh said the agency often sees issues then.
Kenai area biologist Jeff Selinger, Fish and Game also sees regular issues with poorly discarded waste on the Russian River.
“That directly impacts bear activity,” Selinger said.
Selinger added that most negative human-bear interactions are caused by human factors. He said there is a correlation between less poorly disposed of fish and less of those antipathetic human-bear moments.
If you’re cleaning your fish on the banks of a fast moving river, like the Russian and Kenai rivers, Fish and Game said it’s OK to chop the waste into tiny pieces and drop them into the water.
But if a fisherman is cleaning their catch away from the water, the agency has a few other recommendations.
Freeze the waste to eliminate odors and put it in your outside trash can the day of garbage pickup. Do not put the frozen fish in the outside can the night before. The smell can attract animals — including bears.
If permitted by a local landfill, the remains should go there. The Anchorage Regional Landfill, Anchorage Central Transfer Station, Girdwood Transfer Station, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Solid Waste, and the Central Peninsula Landfill all except non-commercial fish waste. The Peninsula transfer facilities in Cooper Landing, Kasilof and Ninilchik do too, but only in smaller amounts.
Waste should always be double-bagged if it’s being brought to any of the landfills listed above.
Those who improperly toss their fish leftovers are considered in violation of state law and could face a fine between $300 and $1000.