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Disaster Relief Available Soon for Yukon Salmon Fishermen

Yukon salmon fishermen eligible for federal disaster assistance should be contacted soon following today's release of $5 million for the relief program by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said.

"This relief, for failures of the Yukon Chinook salmon runs in 2008 and 2009, is a long time in coming but with release of the funding today it should be in the hands of affected fishermen soon," Sen. Begich said. "I encourage eligible Yukon fishermen to watch for application forms in the mail in the next few weeks and return them promptly."

Alaska Sens. Begich and Lisa Murkowski worked to include the $5 million in disaster relief in a supplemental spending bill which was signed into law by President Obama in late July.  The money was released today to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. The commission, of which the state of Alaska is a member, was selected to administer the Yukon program because of past experience dealing with federal fishery disaster assistance.

"Pacific States assured my office they have done all the necessary groundwork in advance and are ready to move quickly to get assistance out to those affected by this disaster," Sen. Begich said.  "Eligible fishermen should be contacted by mail by October 1 and will have until the end of January to apply for assistance.  The application process should be short and simple, and Pacific States has promised a quick turnaround in processing applications."

The funds will provide financial assistance to Yukon River salmon fishermen and replace fishing gear no longer allowed in the Yukon beginning next year.  In response to the weak Chinook runs, the state Board of Fisheries reduced the mesh size of Yukon River gillnets from 8.5 inches to 7.5 inches to allow more larger adult female salmon to get upriver and spawn.

Sen. Begich pushed for declaration of a commercial fishery failure for the Yukon River due to extremely poor Chinook returns in 2008 and 2009.  The commercial harvest in 2008 was 89 percent below the five-year average catch and due expectation of continued poor returns the following year, no commercial or subsistence fishing for Chinook salmon was allowed in the Yukon in 2009. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued the declaration in January.



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