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State to announce answer to disaster assistance request

Posted: Friday, August 24, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Bristol Bay fishermen are expected to hear an answer from the state on Friday to their request to declare western Alaska's commercial fishing industry a disaster.

Gov. Tony Knowles plans an announcement for 10 a.m. on the question of economic disaster assistance for the communities hit hard by low fish prices. Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer will make the announcement for Knowles, who is traveling, said press secretary Bob King.

A declaration of disaster assistance would put the region in line for some federal and state aid.

Commercial fishermen from Bristol Bay met with Gov. Knowles on Aug. 8 to request he issue a declaration of economic disaster. Fishermen from the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and the Norton Sound region also made similar requests.

Low prices coupled with generally poor salmon runs have led a renewed cry for assistance. Salmon prices this year were about half of what they were last year and down 80 percent since 1988, King said.

''What's really different this year is that the fundamental reason for the downturn of fish prices is just a huge glut of farm fish on the market. And there's no indication that is going to change,'' King said.

Commercial fishermen complained that many made no money this year to sustain their businesses, which will have a ripple effect on economies closely tied to the industry.

''We are very sympathetic to the short term and long term needs in the region,'' King said.

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The press conference will be held at 10 a.m. in the governor's conference room. A teleconference feed will be available at 800-315-6338 access code 3474.



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