$10 Million in Governor’s Budget for Chinook Salmon Research

When Gov. Sean
Parnell presents his fiscal year 2014 budget to the Alaska Legislature, it will
contain $10 million for the first component of a five-year, $30 million
comprehensive Chinook salmon research initiative.

The $10 million, if approved by legislators reconvening in
January, would complement existing funds in the Alaska Department of Fish and
Game’s operating budget. The department currently spends some $14.6 million
annually on Chinook salmon-related research and management.

Parnell’s office announced this budget item on Nov. 27, saying
the research initiative would increase Alaska’s understanding of factors
affecting the abundance of Chinook salmon stocks statewide.

The fisheries initiative was prompted by work undertaken this
past summer by scientists within ADF&G to develop a comprehensive research
plan to help the state better understand Chinook salmon abundance and
productivity. The draft research plan was presented during a two-day Chinook
salmon symposium in Anchorage in October that attracted more than 400
scientists, harvesters, ADF&G staff, including Commissioner Cora Campbell,
and others from the United States and Canada.

“The high turnout at the symposium indicates the importance
Alaskans place on healthy Chinook salmon resources,” Parnell said. “The quality
of the dialogue between scientists and the public was a critical step in
developing a robust research plan that reflects both the most current
scientific knowledge and the priorities of the people of Alaska.

The research plan includes adult, juvenile and harvest
assessments, as well as genetics, biometrics and local and traditional
knowledge. The initiative calls for statewide projects and the research plan
will be updated as more data and analyses become available.

Federal agencies have been engaged in the research planning
process, as they were in the symposium, and will have a key role in filling
knowledge gaps in salmon science, particularly in the marine environment,
Parnell said. Data from marine surveys and near-shore trawl research in the
Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska could help identify key biological and
oceanographic factors affecting salmon growth and productivity, he said.