Parnell proposes $1.3M for salmon research

Governor says funds will lead to more accurate estimates

Posted: Monday, December 14, 2009

FAIRBANKS - Gov. Sean Parnell has proposed an extra $1.3 million in funding to help figure out why Yukon River salmon runs have been declining.

The governor announced Thursday that he added the funding for "improved research and management of Western Alaska salmon stocks" in the proposed 2011 budget he will release sometime next week.

The Yukon River's king salmon run has been the main food staple for many villagers living along the river, but it has slumped in recent years.

Fishermen also have been hit with heavy subsistence and commercial fishing restrictions that have left them short on food and cash.

"Western Alaskans depend on healthy salmon runs to feed their families and generate income," Parnell said in a press release.

He said the additional funding will ensure the Alaska Department of Fish and Game "has the tools to accurately estimate returns and provide the maximum possible harvest opportunity consistent with sustainability."

The Yukon River fall chum salmon run also has struggled in recent years.

This year's run was so poor that some mushers in the village of Fort Yukon didn't catch enough fish to feed their sled dogs, a plight made public last week when a few mushers said they might have to euthanize dogs because they can't afford to buy commercial dog food. A relief effort is under way.

Projects that will be funded under the governor's proposal include genetic analysis and aerial surveys.

The governor said some of the funding will go to improving operations at Pilot Station Sonar and to determine how much the sonar may be undercounting fish. The state will conduct extensive site surveys to determine if relocating the sonar would improve accuracy.

State fisheries biologists believe this year's Pilot Station Sonar counts for king salmon might have been low, based on the numbers they saw farther upriver at the Eagle sonar near the Canadian border.

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