Nineteen people have been announced as appointees to the new Alaska Salmon Research Task Force, which will study the increased variability in Pacific salmon populations in Alaska, including unprecedented declines in some regions.
The group is expected to eventually provide recommendations on research priorities to support the understanding of the salmon species.
The task force was formed as a result of the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act, legislation introduced by Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan in the Senate and introduced in the House by the late Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).
It was later carried by Young’s successor, Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola in the House, then signed into law in 2022.
The legislation directs the Research Task Force to form a working group specifically focused on salmon returns in the Alaska Yukon and Kuskokwim River region of Western and Interior Alaska, where salmon return failures have had devastating impacts. The law also provides flexibility for the Research Task Force to establish other geographically-focused working groups.
Appointees to the task force and the grouping under which they were named are included below:
Andrew Munro (North Pacific Fishery Management Council)
Ed Farley (NOAA Fisheries)
Bill Templin (State of Alaska)
Andy Piston (Pacific Salmon Commission)
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 (Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission)
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)
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)
“Salmon are a fundamental part of life in Alaska—for our families, our communities, our economy and our cultural traditions,” Sullivan said in a statement. “In recent years, we have witnessed shocking and unprecedented declines among some salmon species in parts of the state while, in other parts, runs have been strong and historic.”
Now that (Commerce) Secretary (Gina) Raimondo has appointed this task force,” he continued, “it is finally time to get to work so that we can better understand the causes of these declines and identify and address these critical research prioritization gaps with the best scientific minds Alaska and the nation have to offer.”
Murkowski added that salmon declines across Alaska aren’t just devastating to local economies, but also to the Alaska way of life.
“Gathering critical data and finding the source to these declines is vital to any sort of recovery,” she said. “Bringing a diverse group of stakeholders together is important in this effort and brings us one step closer to finding sustainable, long-term solutions to addressing the salmon crisis and having a better understanding of Alaska’s salmon ecosystems.”
Peltola said that the task force is dedicated to protecting Alaska fish from “climate change, bycatch and the other many challenges facing our waterways.”
“We need reliable science that includes traditional knowledge to manage our fish, and assembling this group is a strong step forward,” she remarked. “I will continue to follow their work and look for opportunities to collaborate. We need to start taking action now.”