Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell this week announced that his Fiscal Year 2014 budget will contain $10 million for the first component of a five-year, $30 million comprehensive Chinook Salmon Research Initiative.
The research initiative, says the governor’s office, “will increase Alaska’s understanding of factors affecting the abundance of chinook salmon stocks statewide.”
It will develop strategies to enhance viability and increase returns, using improved information from 12 indicator river systems from Southeast Alaska to the Arctic. The $10 million will complement existing funds in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s operating budget. The department currently spends approximately $14.6 million annually for chinook salmon-related research and management.
The governor’s fisheries initiative resulted from work undertaken by a team of scientists assembled this past summer by the Department of Fish and Game to develop a comprehensive research plan to help the state better understand chinook salmon abundance and productivity.
The draft research plan was presented and publicly discussed at a two-day chinook salmon symposium in Anchorage in October. The symposium drew more than 400 scientists, fishermen and women, members of the public, and government representatives.
“The high turnout at the symposium indicates the importance Alaskans place on healthy chinook salmon resources,” Parnell said. “The quality of the dialogue between scientists and the public was a critical step in developing a robust research plan that reflects both the most current scientific knowledge and the priorities of the people of Alaska.”
The research plan includes adult, juvenile, and harvest assessments, as well as genetics, biometrics, and local and traditional knowledge. Projects will be conducted statewide and the research plan will be updated as more data and analyses become available.
Federal agencies have been engaged in the research planning process and symposium, and will have a key role in filling knowledge gaps in salmon science, particularly in the marine environment. Data from marine surveys and near-shore trawl research in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska could help identify key biological and oceanographic factors affecting salmon growth and productivity.
“Alaska’s fishing industry is a vital economic engine in our state,” Parnell said. “Chinook salmon are a cornerstone of our culture and livelihood. I look forward to working with the Legislature in support of this research initiative.”