Gov. Parnell requests federal disaster declaration

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce requesting a disaster declaration over the poor Chinook salmon runs to the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.

He suggested Cook Inlet might also qualify for disaster relief.

Here's a press release:

July 14, 2012

Gov. Parnell requests federal declaration of fishery disaster for 2011 and 2012 Chinook salmon fisheries on Yukon, Kuskokwim

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell today urged Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank to declare a fishery disaster for the Chinook salmon fisheries on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.

He also alerted the acting secretary that the Cook Inlet region is experiencing low Chinook salmon returns and may also qualify for an economic disaster declaration once the season has concluded.

"Ensuring the health and viability of our fisheries is essential for food security, cultural traditions, and quality of life for Alaskans," Parnell said. "Alaskans have depended on fishing for thousands of years. We must identify and address issues affecting this critical source of nutrition and jobs."

The Magnuson-Stevens Act authorizes various forms of federal assistance through the National Marine Fisheries Service when the secretary of commerce determines there is a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster.

"It is important to emphasize the critical nature of these fisheries to the region's residents," Parnell wrote to Blank. "Residents in the Yukon and Kuskokwim regions experience some of the highest poverty rates in the country. Earnings from even small commercial fisheries are critical to make it through Alaska's winters. Even more important to these residents' survival is the ability to engage in subsistence harvests. The state of fisheries this year may severely impact their subsistence harvests."

The state of Alaska is submitting fisheries data to back up its request. A federal disaster declaration will not bring automatic assistance to the region. A federal appropriation is necessary to provide funding.