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.