Federal disaster declaration issued for YK, Cook Inlet king fisheries

The acting U.S. Commerce secretary has declared a commercial fishery disaster for king salmon in some Alaska fisheries.

Rebecca Blank on Thursday announced the disaster declaration for the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, which flow into the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast, and in Cook Inlet in southcentral Alaska, which includes the Kenai River.

Blank says low chinook salmon returns this year and in previous years are the reason for the declaration.

It’s the second fisheries disaster declared for the Yukon River since 2009.

“It reflects that both the state and federal agencies need to consider other factors of why we’re having such a shortage of King salmon,” said Myron Naneng, President of the Association of Village Council Presidents. His organization represents 56 tribes in the YK Delta. The group passed a resolution in July requesting a disaster declaration for the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. Naneng hopes the disaster declaration will change the King salmon by-catch numbers in the Bering Sea Pollock fisheries.

“And probably reduce that amount that they had voted into using as their limit back in 2009, that 47,000 Chinook salmon that can go up to 60,000,” said Naneng. “And I think that that definitely needs to be lowered.”*

The disaster declaration makes commercial fishermen eligible for relief if Congress approves funding.

Blank says some Cook Inlet salmon fisheries this year lost up to 90 percent of their historic average revenue.

A state report assessing reasons for the poor returns is due later this year.

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