Organizations representing Yukon River communities are drafting a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy seeking a fishery disaster declaration for this summer’s salmon season.
Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association Executive Director Serena Fitka says it’s been an especially tough year, with high water impeding fishing for much of the summer and runs coming in weak, particularly the fall chums many were counting on to save the season.
“The numbers are so low after the mixed stock analysis at the Pilot Station sonar,” Fitka said. “The numbers are below 200,000. So that’s a record low number of return fall chum.”
Fitka said that disaster status would bring funding that could be used for a variety of purposes.
“There’s a lot of suggestions out there. We’ve heard it should go to the people, but does that really help figure out what’s going on and why the fish aren’t returning? That’s the main question that’s being asked on the river,” Fitka said.
Fitka emphasized that a fishery disaster declaration will not provide quick relief, as the process can take one to two years before funding becomes available. She said the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association will hold a series of off-season teleconferences to discuss fishery issues with village residents, beginning with a session on the disaster declaration Oct. 20.