Federal/state task force will develop science plan for Western Alaska salmon

Federal and state leaders have appointed 19 experts to a special task force responsible for creating a science plan to better understand Alaska’s salmon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service announced. Task force members must address sustainable management and a response to the recent crashes in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.

The group was chosen in accordance with the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act that passed and was signed into law late last year. The law calls for most members to be appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with Alaska’s governor, and one to be appointed directly by the governor.

Task force members represent subsistence users, the fishing industry, supporting supply-chain businesses and the academic community, NOAA Fisheries said in its June 9 statement. According to the law, NOAA, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and U.S. representatives of the Pacific Salmon Commission are represented. The law also requires Indigenous representation on the task force.

Western Alaska communities have endured recent years of record-low or near-record low runs of chinook and chum salmon which are dietary and cultural staples for Indigenous communities.

Bleak conditions continue this year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game last month announced a full closure of chinook salmon fishing in the Yukon River, even for subsistence purposes, and the department’s present forecast predicts that runs of all salmon species in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers will be too low this year to support any commercial harvests.

The task force is responsible for producing a coordinated science plan within a year. It is also responsible for identifying knowledge gaps and research needs, setting up a work group to focus specifically on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and finding ways to support sustainable salmon management, NOAA Fisheries said.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com.


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