Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell. (Photo: www.gov.alaska.gov)
Alaskan governor seeks federal disaster declaration for salmon
Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 02:30 (GMT + 9)
Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell has requested Acting US Secretary of the Department of Commerce (DOC) Rebecca Blank declare a fishery disaster for the 2011 and for the 2012 chinook salmon fisheries on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers in his state. In a letter the governor sent to the secretary, he stressed “the importance of these fisheries to the local, regional, state and national economies.
Parnell noted how the Cook Inlet region is struggling due to low chinook salmon returns and may consequently also qualify for an economic disaster declaration once the season is over.
At the same time, a federal disaster declaration will not automatically bring economic assistance to the region. A federal appropriation is necessary for money to go to those affected by the low salmon runs, The Associated Press reports.
The official wrote that while the 2011 chinook Yukon River fishery was almost fully shut down due to weak runs, this year’s situation is even worse: there are no commercial harvest openings expected for chinook on the Yukon River and harvest restrictions are resulting in lower activity in other salmon fisheries.
As far as the Kuskokwim River, 2011 saw restricted chinook sales and a negligible value of the fishery. For 2012, fisheries managers have not been able to open any directed chinook salmon fisheries.
There may also be significant harm done to other salmon fisheries in the Kuskokwim River.
Subsistence harvest will most likely be reduced in both rivers.
Additional fisheries which may also warrant a fisheries disaster declaration include the Cook Inlet chinook, which is also seeing diminished returns.
Parnell noted that the cause of the decline in these fisheries remains a mystery right now and could include ocean survival among other factors. Runs in coming years will probably be affected as well, Parnell wrote in his letter to Blank.
He highlighted how crucial the fisheries are to residents in the region so they can survive through Alaska's harsh winter. Residents in the regions of the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, he said, experience some of the highest poverty rates in the US.
“It appears these river systems may be facing long-term systemic changes and require significant and long-term financial resources to determine the precise problem and make corrective actions. We request that along with a disaster declaration, you also do what you can to increase immediate resources to assist in potential food shortages, and direct long-term, sustainable funding to research,” Parnell added.
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