WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate this week voted unanimously to pass the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act, legislation introduced by Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (both R-Alaska) that would form a panel of Alaska’s salmon stakeholders and research experts to study Pacific salmon trends and create a coordinated research strategy for Pacific salmon in Alaska to support robust salmon runs. The Research Task Force would be directed to conduct a comprehensive review of Pacific salmon science relevant to understanding salmon returns in Alaska, and publish a report, within one year of convening, to provide recommendations identifying knowledge and research gaps and further research priorities for salmon in Alaska.
“Salmon are a fundamental part of life in Alaska—for our families, our communities, our economy, and our cultural traditions,” said Senator Sullivan. “In recent years, Alaskans 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. Many have speculated on the causes of these declines, but all Alaskans can agree—we need to identify and address research prioritization gaps with comprehensive data and the best scientific minds, including Indigenous communities that have harvested salmon for millennia. I want to thank my Senate colleagues for passing this legislation to expand our understanding of this challenge so we can realize increased abundance and stability in our salmon stocks for the benefit of all Alaskans.”
“Salmon are the lifeblood of Alaska’s economy, history, and the subsistence way of life. In some regions, we are unfortunately not only seeing a decline in salmon runs, but stock crashes that are devastating to local economies as well as the culture and spirit of those who call Alaska home,” said Senator Murkowski. “We must act to address the problem, and gather the information we need to understand the root of it. That’s why Senator Sullivan and I are spearheading the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act. Our legislation unanimously passing the Senate takes us one step closer to better understanding salmon and their ecosystems during a time of ongoing change. We must work together – Alaskans, stakeholders, and all levels of government – to find solutions to sustain this precious resource.”
The Research Task Force would be composed of between 13 and 19 members, with the secretary of commerce appointing a representative from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the U.S. section of the Pacific Salmon Commission. The secretary would also appoint between two and five representatives from Alaska covering the wide array of state fisheries stakeholders, including subsistence, commercial or recreational users. Lastly, the secretary would appoint five academic experts in salmon biology, management, and ecology, or marine research. The governor of Alaska would appoint one representative of the state.
The bill also directs the Research Task Force to establish a working group specifically focused on salmon returns in the AYK 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.
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