Knowles declares salmon industry emergency

Posted: Friday, October 18, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles declared a statewide economic emergency Thursday for a state salmon industry suffering from poor prices.

Several state agencies are being directed to offer eligible Alaska fishermen assistance in debt restructuring, job training and other programs such as Denali KidCare and energy assistance.

The emergency assistance is comparable to that previously extended to Western Alaska and covers Southeast, Yakutat, Kotzebue and other salmon ports, the governor's office said.

Knowles ordered the Department of Community and Economic Development to coordinate outreach to offer assistance to salmon fishing families.

The action was taken after the Southeast Conference of Mayors, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Tribes and Reps. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, and Reggie Joule, D-Kotzebue, requested Knowles declare an economic disaster, the governor's office said.

But the governor stopped short of declaring a disaster and requesting federal aid.

Alaska's economy is diversified enough statewide to make such assistance unlikely, said Knowles spokesman Bob King. The federal government has also refused state disaster requests in each of the last two years, King said.

Alaska's ex-vessel salmon catch was $150 million this year, compared to $216 million in 2001 and $728 million in 1988. Prices were so low that one third of the Southeast seiners fleet did not fish this year, the governor's office said.

Knowles renewed his appeal to Congress and the White House to assist Alaska salmon fishermen with short-term and long-range help. He proposed federal support for fishermen similar to programs that help embattled farmers.

The administration also wants labeling of both wild and pen-raised salmon in supermarkets and continued federal funds to purchase canned salmon.

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