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Parnell requests federal fishery disaster declaration for Cook Inlet

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Governor Sean Parnell has requested that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank to declare a fishery disaster for the Chinook salmon fisheries in the Upper Cook Inlet area, according to an announcement issued on Wednesday.

In a July 14 letter to Secretary Blank requesting fishery disasters declarations for king salmon runs in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, Gov. Parnell warned that the Upper Cook Inlet may wind up a disaster as well if the run continued the lackluster way it began. It's now likely finished in the Upper Inlet, Parnell wrote, and it has indeed been awful in 2012. Parnell notes salmon's regional importance:

(The) Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries were severely restricted and even closed for much of the season in order to conserve Chinook salmon for escapement. These fisheries are economic drivers for the local and regional economy, providing direct and indirect jobs, income to families, bringing in tens of thousands of visitors, and supporting local businesses. Alaskans suffered substantial losses as a direct result of the decline of the Chinook salmon runs.

He adds:

Throughout this area, impacts are being felt by commercial fishermen, sport guides, fish processors, and those who sell fuel, tackle, supplies, groceries, and lodging. Local governments will feel the impact of lost revenue to their economic base. The Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries affected by the decline of the Chinook salmon runs are crucial to the economic vitality of the region and the well-being of Alaskans.

A federal disaster declaration, such as the one Parnell has now requested, will not bring immediate relief. Federal appropriation is first needed before funding can be provided.

Read Gov. Parnell's letter to Secretary Blank as a .pdf file, here.