Gov. Bill Walker has declared an economic disaster for some Kenai Peninsula fishers after having a failed sockeye season, according to a release from the Governor's office. 

Low harvest rates are currently affecting communities of Chignik, Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Perryville and Ivanof Bay -- which depend on the subsistence and commercial availability of salmon, the release said.

The Governor's office described the dramatic decline compared to previous years:

· With a preliminary harvest count of 128 sockeye salmon, the 2018 sockeye harvest was only .00922% of the prior ten-year average.

· Escapement counts for 2018 for all salmon in the Chignik Management Area (as of July 29, 2018) are 54 percent of what they were on the same date in 2017.

Walker's economic disaster will allow the Legislature to budget money for assistance grants and programs to accelerate the region's existing capital projects and fund new ones. It will also waive specific terms of Alaska statute and regulations relating to capital project requirements, employment, and contractor preference, the governor's office said. 

The governor has directed the Division of Economic Development to help commit as many resources as they can to assist salmon permit holders who are unable to meet loan terms because of the low harvest. 

“Chignik is used to catching more than a million sockeye every year. This year, they caught 128 fish,” said Governor Walker. “Salmon is the economic and subsistence staple in these communities and the failure of this year’s fishery is a one-two punch. It is critical that we do what we can to support them as they work to recover: that’s what we’re here for.”

The Division of Public Assistance is providing additional support for people in the Chignik area with food relief and financial assistance. Those programs include the Heating Assistance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Alaska Temporary Assistance Program. 

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