Hawaii & Alaska
Bill Roth / ADN

AK - Alaska US senators propose task force to gain better understanding of salmon declines

The Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act was introduced in Congress last week by Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. It aims to gain better understanding about causes of salmon declines, especially in the Northwest regions.

The task force of up to 19 people would conduct a comprehensive review of salmon science and management in Alaska. The bill also would establish a working group focused on salmon returns in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Western and Interior Alaska.

The group would include members from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the Pacific Salmon Commission, and two to five Alaska representatives including subsistence and commercial or recreational users, five academic salmon experts and one state representative appointed by the governor.

Within one year, the group would publish a report identifying knowledge and research gaps and would advance policies that might result in more salmon abundance and stability.

The action follows a salmon roundtable discussion the Alaska congressional delegation hosted two weeks ago with tribal leaders and state fishery managers and scientists.

Many agreed there is a need for better data, but most called for action.

“We don’t have time to sit on our hands and wait for these research projects to start and finish. Precautionary management needs to happen now. Adaptive management needs to happen now,” said Mary Peltola, director of the Kuskokwim Inter-tribal Fish Commission.

Managers need to look at salmon habitat in rivers and oceans in a more holistic way, Peltola said, pointing to policies that allow large ocean vessels to capture chinook and chum salmon as bycatch while local river residents are not allowed any fish.

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