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Salmon Stronghold Bill Heard before Commerce Subcommittee

Bill would strengthen Wild Salmon Stocks in Alaska, Western States 

Alaska would be in line for additional funding for the protection of wild salmon stocks under legislation heard in the Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee today.  U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a member of the committee, is a co-sponsor of the Pacific Stronghold Conservation Act. S.817 was introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has co-sponsored a companion bill in the House.

While other programs focus on rebuilding threatened or endangered salmon stocks, the salmon stronghold concept would build on these efforts by identifying and protecting the healthiest remaining salmon ecosystems. With its large number of sustainable salmon runs, Alaska is considered a regional salmon stronghold.

“Protecting the salmon strongholds we have now saves money and fishing jobs over the long-term as we won’t have to spend billions of dollars later to restore and rebuild the fisheries,” Begich said. “Alaska produces 44 percent of the world’s salmon -- it’s a precious resource we must work together to protect.”

The bill establishes the Salmon Stronghold Partnership, a regional cooperative, incentive-based, public-private partnership working across political lines and land ownership to identify and conserve salmon strongholds. The board includes representatives of Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State, as well as from a number of agencies. The bill also authorizes $30 million annually for grants through 2013.

Among those testifying in support of the legislation was Joe Childers of Juneau, president of the United Fishermen of Alaska, an umbrella group that represents 37 commercial fishing groups throughout the state.

“We support the concept within S. 817 of identifying salmon strongholds and the threats to them, and we support creating a structure with funding to ensure that we are doing everything we can to sustain or restore salmon where necessary, for the benefit of future generations,” Childers testified

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