The following is courtesy of NOAA Fisheries Alaska:
Salmon play an essential role in Alaska ecosystems. They support commercial and recreational fisheries and are integral to the culture and food security of many Indigenous communities in Alaska. In response to historic declines of salmon runs on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, in December 2022, Congress passed and President Biden signed into law the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act.
The Act requires the Secretary of Commerce in consultation with the Governor of Alaska, to convene an Alaska Salmon Research Task Force to identify data gaps and produce a coordinated science plan one year after coming into force.
The Task Force is charged with
- Reviewing and reporting on research about the Pacific salmon in Alaska
- Identifying applied research needed to better understand salmon migration and declining salmon returns in some regions of Alaska
- Setting up a Yukon and Kuskokwim River work group
- Supporting sustainable management of salmon
Per the Act, federal appointments include a representative from NOAA, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the United States section of the Pacific Salmon Commission.
The legislation requires that the task force consist of between 13-19 members with representation (not less than 2 and not more than 5) from each of the following sectors: the subsistence community, the fishing industry and supporting supply chain businesses, and the academic community. At least 2 representatives must be Alaska Natives who possess personal knowledge of, and direct experience with, subsistence uses in rural Alaska.
The 19 Task Force members represent a diversity of backgrounds and expertise.
Federal appointees: Andrew Munro (North Pacific Fishery Management Council), Ed Farley (NOAA Fisheries), Bill Templin (State of Alaska), Andy Piston (Pacific States Salmon Commission)
Subsistence: Oscar Evon (Native Village of Kwigillingok), Jacob Ivanoff (Native Village of Unalakleet), Karla Jensen (Native Village of Pedro Bay), Caroline Brown (Alaska Department of Fish and Game Subsistence Director), Justin Leon (Alaska Native American Fish and Wildlife Society)
Fishing Industry: Michelle Stratton (Alaska Marine Conservation Council/Commercial Salmon Fisherman), Mike Flores (Charter Boat Fisherman), Austin Estabrooks (At-Sea Processors Association), Tom Carpenter (Commercial Fisherman), Steve Reifenstuhl (Aquaculture Industry)
Academic: Megan McPhee (University of Fairbanks), Megan Williams (Ocean Conservancy/University of Fairbanks), Tommy Sheridan (University of Fairbanks), Noelle Yochum (Alaska Pacific University), Katie Howard (Alaska Pacific University/Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
“The work of the Alaska Salmon Research Task is critically important,” said Robert Foy, director, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries. “We are grateful to the individuals who have agreed to serve as task force members and share their knowledge and expertise to develop a roadmap of where to go next with research to best understand and respond to the unprecedented changes in Alaska salmon runs.”
Updates on the task force progress will be posted on the NOAA Fisheries website.