Sullivan, Murkowski, Peltola Congratulate Appointees to New Salmon Research Task Force and Yukon-Kuskokwim-Focused Working Group
Alaska delegation welcomes work to study increased variability in salmon returns
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (both R-Alaska), and Representative Mary Sattler Peltola (D-Alaska), celebrated the appointment of 19 members to the new Alaska Salmon Research Task Force, as well as appointments to the working group focused on salmon returns in the Alaska Yukon and Kuskokwim River region.
The task force will study the increased variability in Pacific salmon populations in Alaska, including unprecedented declines in some regions, and provide recommendations on research priorities to support the understanding of these salmon species. The Research Task Force formed as a result of the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act, legislation introduced by Sullivan and Murkowski in the Senate and introduced by the late Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) and later carried by Representative Peltola in the House, and signed into law in 2022. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the appointments to the Research Task Force earlier this summer.
The legislation also directs the Research Task Force to form a working group specifically focused on salmon returns in the Alaska Yukon and Kuskokwim River region of Western and Interior Alaska, where salmon return failures have had devastating impacts, and provides flexibility for the Research Task Force to establish other geographically-focused working groups. Appointments have been announced to the working group and are included below.
“Salmon are a fundamental part of life in Alaska—for our families, our communities, our economy, and our cultural traditions,” said Sen. Sullivan. “In recent years, we have witnessed shocking and unprecedented declines among some salmon species in parts of the state while, in other parts, runs have been strong and historic. I was honored to work with Alaskans across the state to author this important legislation passed into law last year. Now that Secretary Raimondo has appointed this task force, which I’m pleased to say includes 19 Alaskans, as well as the working group focused specifically on the devastating salmon returns in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, it is finally time to get to work so that we can better understand the causes of these declines and identify and address these critical research prioritization gaps with the best scientific minds Alaska and the nation have to offer.”
“Salmon declines across our state aren’t just devastating to our local economies, but devastating to the Alaska way of life that has been reliant on salmon for generations. Gathering critical data and finding the source to these declines is vital to any sort of recovery,”Sen. Murkowski said. “Bringing a diverse group of stakeholders together is important in this effort and brings us one step closer to finding sustainable, long-term solutions to addressing the salmon crisis and having a better understanding of Alaska’s salmon ecosystems.”
“The Alaska Delegation has put fish at the top of our priority list–and rightfully so,” said Rep. Peltola. “Salmon mean everything to our state, and that’s why I’m so glad to see these 19 incredible Alaskans from across the state dedicated to protecting our fish from climate change, bycatch, and the other many challenges facing our waterways. We need reliable science that includes traditional knowledge to manage our fish, and assembling this group is a strong step forward. I will continue to follow their work and look for opportunities to collaborate. We need to start taking action now.”
APPOINTMENTS TO THE SALMON RESEARCH TASK FORCE
FEDERAL / STATE
Andrew Munro (North Pacific Fishery Management Council)
Ed Farley (NOAA Fisheries)
Bill Templin (State of Alaska)
Andy Piston (Pacific Salmon Commission)
Oscar Evon (Native Village of Kwigillingok)
Jacob Ivanoff (Native Village of Unalakleet)
Karla Jensen (Native Village of Pedro Bay)
Caroline Brown (Alaska Department of Fish and Game Subsistence Director)
Justin Leon (Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission)
Michelle Stratton (Alaska Marine Conservation Council/Commercial Salmon Fisherman)
Mike Flores (Charter Boat Fisherman)
Austin Estabrooks (At-Sea Processors Association)
Tom Carpenter (Commercial Fisherman)
Steve Reifenstuhl (Aquaculture Industry)
Megan McPhee (University of Fairbanks)
Megan Williams (Ocean Conservancy/University of Fairbanks)
Tommy Sheridan (University of Fairbanks)
Noelle Yochum (Alaska Pacific University)
Katie Howard (Alaska Pacific University/Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
APPOINTMENTS TO YUKON / KUSKOKWIM WORKING GROUP
The Research Task Force is charged with:
1. Reviewing and reporting on research about Pacific salmon in Alaska;
2. Prioritizing scientific research needs for Pacific salmon in Alaska;
3. Identifying applied research needed to better understand salmon migration and declining salmon returns in some regions of Alaska;
4. Supporting collaboration and coordination for Pacific salmon conservation efforts in Alaska.
Eighteen members of the task force were selected by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimando, representing four broad stakeholder groups: federal, subsistence, industry, and academia. Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy appointed one member to represent the state.
On August 14, Sen. Sullivan wrote to Secretary Raimondo expressing concern that no Alaska Native subsistence users from the Interior Yukon region were selected for the Research Task Force, and highlighting the dire situation facing many vulnerable communities along the Yukon River.
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