declare a fishery disaster under Section 312(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) for Yukon River Chinook salmon fisheries. MSA § 312(a) authorizes various forms of federal assistance through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) when the Secretaty of Commerce finds a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster. I ask that you make such a determination for Yukon River Chinook salmon fisheries and enable those affected by this significant resource disaster to access federal assistance. I understand that the Association of Village Council Presidents and Alaska Federation of Natives have made similar requests and I fully support their efforts in this regard.
Commerce Secretary Locke himself, when Governor of Washington State, made a similar request to President Bush's administration. Gov. Parnell's request follows upon the heels of the Alaska U.S. Congressional delegation's May 7th pre-fishing season request to Locke, and Sen. Mark Begich's June 22nd post-first Chinook surge request to Locke, both of which lacked the same import or impact as does a gubernatorial request.
Essentially, Sec. Locke has the power to order the National Marine Fisheries Service to force a closure of ALL fisheries that MAY have an impact upon Yukon River salmon returns. Parnell's letter further states:
The cause of this decline is undetermined and could include a variety of factors including ocean survival, disease, bycatch, or other unknown factors.
Other "unknown" factors could include sea temperature shifts, ocean acidification, climate change, and other impacts upon the Yukon River itself (warmer water, parasitic diseases, riverine pollution from mining and other activities, etc.). But the adverse impact of the Bering Sea trawl fishery bycatch IS known, and has been quantified, and most likely minimized.
The single person in Alaska government who can most quickly act to shut down the Bering Sea trawl fishery until that fishery's true impact is more fully understood is Sen. Mark Begich. He sits upon the Senatorial subcommittee that oversees the National Marine Fisheries Service and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. Friday afternoon, a senior member of Sen. Begich's staff assured me once again that "Sen. Begich is trying to help where he can."
Now is the time to assist Gov. Parnell, Sen. Begich, the Association of Village Council Presidents and others to gain a court order or other means to immediately and fully pull all the trawl gear out of the water in the Bering Sea.
image - poster from California in 2008, where a similar order halted all catch of salmon, whether it was accidental or intentional