The state of Alaska has asked for federal disaster relief in the wake of dismal returns in the 2016 pink salmon fisheries in Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Chignik and Lower Cook Inlet.
The economic impact is already being felt by fishermen, processors and others in the industry who sell fuel, vessel supplies, groceries and lodging to those engaged in the fishery, Governor Bill Walker said in his request to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
It is important that people understand it wasn’t just a bad season and that it’s not just the fishermen who were affected,” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, who urged the state to apply for federal aid. “This is a disaster,” Stutes said. “It has huge impacts on communities, whether from no raw fish tax to processing workers, to every business in those communities.”
Through mid-September, the 2016 Prince William Sound pink salmon fishery’s combined natural and hatchery pink salmon harvest totaled 12.1 million fish, which is 46.5 percent of the lower bound of the forecast range estimate of 26 million fish, and 30.5 percent of the five year average harvest for even year pink salmon, the governor’s office said. And two out of three Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatcheries were experiencing record low commercial harvests as well.
The preliminary value of the 2016 Prince William Sound combined natural and hatchery pink salmon harvest stood at $6.6 million, compared with a five-year average value of $43.87 million, the governor told Pritzker.
Through mid-September, when the disaster relief request was filed, the Kodiak area pink salmon harvest of 3.2 million humpies was just 20 percent of the five-year average harvest for even-year pinks, the Chignik area harvest was 19 percent of that same five-year average and the Lower Cook Inlet catch was 17 percent of that five-year-average for even years.