Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Murkowski introduces International Year of the Salmon bill

Earlier this month, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a resolution recognizing 2019 as the international Year of the Salmon.

“Alaskans are incredibly proud of our salmon. My hope is that this resolution will foster discussion and collaboration that will help others more deeply appreciate the tremendous value of these fish — to understand that supporting salmon means supporting food security, marine ecosystems, Alaska Native culture, coastal communities, and economies,” said Senator Murkowski in a news release.

“Salmon indicate the health of rivers and oceans that people, fish, and wildlife depend on. Their migrations span national boundaries, and collaborating and sharing knowledge across borders is critical to sustaining salmon stocks.”

The International Year of the Salmon is a project launched by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission and the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, as well as other partners from across the world, to serve as an international framework for research and collaboration, Murkowski wrote in an email to Kodiak Daily Mirror.

“In conjunction with that project, I introduced the Year of the Salmon resolution, which highlights the cultural, biological and economic importance of our salmon populations, and brings people and scientists together across the entire northern hemisphere to talk about how we keep these populations healthy,” Murkowski wrote.

“Although this resolution is focused broadly on salmon populations across the Northern Hemisphere, I have also sponsored resolutions in the past specifically highlighting Alaska wild salmon,” she added.

One of the projects associated with the International Year of the Salmon is a Gulf of Alaska research cruise focused on studying Pacific salmon during their first ocean winter and determining rearing areas and abundances of specific stocks.

“Research conducted in the Gulf of Alaska this (past) winter aims to determine where Pacific salmon spend the winter months and how climate change may affect these populations,” Murkowski wrote.

Charlie Waters, a research biologist with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, was one of 21 scientists on board the research vessel, which departed from Vancouver in February for a four-week expedition.

“Salmon don’t know any borders, so we all have to come together,” Waters told KDM on Thursday. He added that this is the first expedition of its kind, bringing together researchers from the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea and Russia, aboard a Russian research vessel.

Researchers tried to estimate the populations of the five species of salmon in the Gulf of Alaska, numbers that can later be compared to the return of salmon in Alaska. The biggest implication for fisheries management is for trying to get a better idea of salmon abundance, so escapement goals and fishing quotas can be more accurate, Waters said.

“We’re really excited about this potential application for fishery management,” Waters said. “That could really help fisheries managers set escapement goals.

“It’s remarkable how everyone is coming together and freely sharing just to understand what is happening with salmon in the winter.”

 Senator Murkowski’s resolution aims to serve as a framework for collaboration across the Northern Hemisphere to recover and sustain salmon stocks through research, cooperation and public action, according to the release.

The resolution was cosponsored by senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Patty Murray (D-WA).

Congressman Don Young (R-AK), Co-Chair of the Wild Salmon Caucus, introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 “One important thing Kodiak residents can do is teach young Alaskans about the history and importance of our salmon,” Murkowski said.

More information about the project is available at yearofthesalmon.org

By:  Iris Samuels
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner