Begich Applauds Fisheries Disaster Declaration for Western Alaska

Commerce Sec. Locke announces decision in Anchorage

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich issued the following statement following an announcement by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to issue a Disaster Declaration for the Yukon River Chinook salmon fishery for 2008 and 2009:

“I am very pleased Secretary Locke has answered our requests and those of Western Alaska fishermen to declare a disaster after complete fishery failures in 2008 and 2009. This declaration recognizes the hardships imposed on Alaskans in this region by the closure of commercial and subsistence fishing for Chinook for the past two years.

“My staff and I have worked closely with the Commerce Department for a number of months on this issue and I appreciate the Secretary’s recognition of the magnitude of the disaster.

“Residents who live in this remote region of our state face some of the highest costs of living in the nation. With heating oil at $8 per gallon this past winter, residents reported having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families. The fishery collapse has made these already dire circumstances substantially worse.

“This announcement from Secretary Locke while visiting Alaska comes as great news. Our next step will be to move forward on funding to support the disaster declaration.”

In May of 2009, the Alaska Delegation signed a joint letter asking Sec. Locke for the disaster declaration. In June, Sen. Begich sent an additional letter for the request.

Sen. Begich is currently hosting Sec. Locke in Anchorage for a review of Anchorage’s Census 2010 facility and a roundtable with Alaskan business leaders on trade expansion with the Pacific Rim.