U.S. Secretary of Commerce Declares Disaster for Low King Salmon Returns
Allows Congress to help commercial fishermen affected by low runs
Thursday Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank issued a disaster declaration for the low Chinook salmon runs in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and Cook Inlet during this year’s fishing season, as well as previous years.
According to a press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the declaration will allow Congress to appropriate funds to assist commercial fishermen affected by the low runs. “NOAA will work closely with Congress and the state of Alaska to develop plans to assist coastal communities,” the release says.
Acting Secretary Blank is quoted as saying some Cook Inlet salmon fisheries lost up to 90 percent of their historical average revenue this year, which in turn affected communities that depend on fishing for their economies.
The declaration for the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers was requested by Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska Federation of Natives in July, and last month Parnell added Cook Inlet to the request. The disaster declaration falls under both the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act.
NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region is conduction a status review of the Yukon River, Kuskokwim River, and Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisheries.
NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco individually told each member of Alaska’s congressional delegation about the disaster declaration Thursday morning, and Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and Congressman Don Young praised the decision in a joint press release. The release noted, however, that the declaration was merely the first step in the process, and warned the time between a decision and actual disbursement of funds could take over a year.
More information on federal fishery disaster assistance can be found here.