Fish disaster requested
State to study the chinook problem
With meager chinook runs in Alaska waters, including the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, the state’s leaders have stepped in with several plans.
Sen. Mark Begich asked Gov. Sean Parnell to declare a chinook fisheries disaster in the Y-K Delta and the Interior region of the Yukon River in a letter dated July 9. Begich wrote that once the govenor declared a disaster at the state level, the senator could persue federal assistance.
The Alaska congressional delegation (Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Mark Begich and Rep. Don Young) submitted a letter to Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank on July 12 in support of the June 29 Alaska Federation of Natives legislative/litigation committee resolution that called for the state and federal administrations to declare a fishing disaster in the region.
“Chinook salmon returns to Alaska are weak statewide this season, and have been below average in many areas in recent years. The State of Alaska has been forced to put burdensome salmon conservation measures in effect in commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries from the Kenai to the Yukon,” the delegation wrote. “Our primary concern is the impact of closures on communities dependent on subsistence, including the Alaska Native peoples who for generations have depended on fish to feed their families. People along the Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers have a limited weather window to dry and put up fish for the coming winter.”
The letter closes, “It is imperative that all appropriate federal resources be made available to affected communities and fisheries as quickly as possible. Therefore, we respectfully request that AFN’s request be acted on as quickly as possible, consistent with all relevant rules, laws and regulations.”
Gov. Parnell, on July 14, also called for the Secretary of Commerce to declare the 2012 chinook fishery on the Delta a disaster.
A task force to investigate why the chinook runs are so low was announced on Friday by the govenor, along with Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, at a press conference. The team of top scientists and researchers is to report by this fall, their recommendations for bringing kings back into the rivers to spawn.
Campbell said that the state is working on the crisis along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fisheries Service.
Openers and closures for subsistence and commercial fishing have been on and off all season along the Kuskokwim and Yukon and continue to be on and off.
Fish processers on the Kuskokwim have verbally agreed to not buy chinooks, and instead they agreed to retain them for subsistence or personal use, according to a news release from ADF&G on Saturday.