Sep 14, 2012

Commerce secretary declares Alaska salmon disaster

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — King salmon fisheries in major Alaska watersheds have been declared failures by the U.S. Department of Commerce, making commercial fishermen eligible for disaster relief.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced the disaster declaration Thursday for the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, which flow into the Bering Sea, and for Cook Inlet region south of Anchorage, which includes the Kenai River.

“Some Cook Inlet salmon fisheries have experienced revenue losses of up to 90 percent of their historical average during the 2012 season, seriously hurting local economies that are dependent on fishing,” Blank said in her announcement.

The Yukon River is North America’s third-longest. Villages along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers depend on chinook salmon for both commercial sales and subsistence needs, Blank said.
King salmon are the largest of the five Pacific salmon that thrive in Alaska waters. They hatch in freshwater streams, live a year in rivers and spend three to four years in ocean water before returning to streams to breed and die. Some spawning Yukon River kings swim more than 2,000 miles over two months across the width of Alaska to reach headwaters in Canada, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Gov. Sean Parnell requested disaster declarations over the summer following weak returns that had state fisheries managers closing seasons and limiting sport, commercial and subsistence fishing. In some cases, managers halted the catch of sockeye or other species so that enough kings could escape up streams.

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