Aid offered in wake of record low Chignik harvest

An economic disaster has been declared for the Chignik fisheries region on the Alaska Peninsula in the wake of a harvest estimated at 128 sockeye salmon, a tiny fraction of the prior 10-year average.

The disaster declaration announced by Gov. Bill Walker on Aug. 23 will allow legislators to appropriate funds for assistance grants and for the governor’s office to make budget recommendations to accelerate the region’s existing capital projects and provide funds for new ones, Walker’s office said. The declaration also waives specific provisions of state statutes and regulations relating to capital project requirements, employment and contractor preference.

Walker has also directed the state’s Division of Economic Development to commit as many resources as possible to assist salmon permit holders who participate in the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan program who may be unable to meet terms of their loans because of the low harvest, the governor’s office said.

Walker noted that Chignik area fishermen are used to catching over 1 million sockeyes every year. The low harvest threatens the economies of Chignik, Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Perryville and Ivanoff Bay, whose residents depend on the subsistence and commercial availability of salmon.

“Salmon is the economic and subsistence staple in these communities and the failure of this year’s fishery is a one-two punch,” he said. “It is critical that we do what we can to support them as they work to recover.”

Additional support for residents of these communities is available from the state Division of Public Assistance, which provides food relief and financial assistance to Alaskans in need.