Gov. Sean Parnell's office released this today:
Office of Alaska Governor Sean Parnell
Aug. 7, 2009
Parnell Urges Declaration of Disaster for Yukon Chinook
JUNEAU, Alaska — Governor Sean Parnell today sought to secure federal disaster relief for Yukon River residents. Parnell urged the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to declare a fishery disaster due to poor returns of Chinook salmon on the Yukon River.
“I trust Secretary Locke will recognize the severity of the situation on the Yukon and declare a fishery disaster,” Governor Parnell said. “I look forward to working with federal agencies and Alaska’s congressional delegation to secure disaster relief assistance for this region.”
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.
State analysis indicates that the decline in the Yukon Chinook fishery meets the standards in federal law as well as National Marine Fisheries Service policy for disaster declarations and criteria.
“Residents of Yukon River communities rely on fishing for income and food,” said Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Commissioner Emil Notti. “These Alaskans face a high cost of living and have limited employment opportunities. These factors make the loss of the commercial fishery especially difficult.”
Commercial fishing is the only identified industry in the lower Yukon region that brings new money into the economy. On the entire river, more than 800 Alaska permit holders are directly affected, along with crewmen, processing employees, and those who provide support services.
The state is providing run assessment updates and technical information to assist the National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska region in its analysis of the situation and is committed to providing any additional information that may be necessary for the federal process.
A federal disaster declaration will not bring automatic assistance to the region. A federal appropriation is necessary to provide funding.
The governor’s letter supports earlier requests by the Association of Village Council Presidents and the Alaska Federation of Natives.