City Plans To Contribute Funds To Drone Salmon Survey

May 31, 2019

Unalaska Lake (pictured) is one of the salmon habitats that will be surveyed by drone this summer.
Credit Berett Wilber / KUCB

The City of Unalaska plans to pitch in to continue monitoring local salmon habitat by drone.

This will be the second year of a survey project that has local business owner Andy Dietrick, of Aleutian Aerial LLC, capturing high-resolution footage of salmon. That footage is then sent to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for analysis.

At a City Council meeting on May 14, Councilor Dave Gregory argued the city should support the project.

"It's going to be the way of the future for some of these small river system counts," said Gregory. "You can fly that drone nice and slow and get some highly accurate video, so the quality of the counts go way up. We really need that in these river systems, so we can start thinking about habitat and how we can enhance what we have."

Dietrick said the quality of the imagery is so high that experts can distinguish different species of salmon while collecting data on Unalaska's little-studied streams.

Last year, the Unalaska Native Fishermen's Association (UNFA) funded all of the road system sockeye surveys at the Unalaska Lake, Summer Bay, and Morris Cove drainages. The project cost nearly $17,000, but the price has decreased to a little more than $15,000 this year.

UNFA and the Ounalashka Corporation have each already committed $5,000. The City Council plans to contribute the remaining $5,200, with funds coming from the council's contingency fund.

Mayor Frank Kelty is expected to put forward a resolution allocating the money in July.