Peninsula salmon get help from NOAA

Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Salmon protection efforts on the Kenai Peninsula got a boost last week when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released $657,000 in federal funds to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for its Fish Habitat Protection and Restoration Cost Share Program.

Sen. Ted Stevens' office announced that NOAA was releasing $13.36 million for various fisheries projects in Alaska's coastal communities.

"These funds will help our fishermen market Alaska's seafood, continue sound management of our fisheries and support the important work being done at the Alaska SeaLife Center," Stevens said in a press release.

Bob Clark, a fisheries scientist with Fish and Game, said among the things the grant money will be used for is bank habitat restoration on the Kenai River.

"Basically, it allows us to work with private land owners to share the cost of the work," he said.

Fish and Game will provide, among other things, technical assistance to ensure the restoration work is done effectively.

The SeaLife Center in Seward also has money coming from the NOAA appropriations. The center will get $967,073 to rescue, treat and release stranded marine mammals.

Dr. Natalie Noll, a veterinarian with the center, said the program is an important part of the center's mission "to understand and maintain the integrity of the marine ecosystem of Alaska through research, rehabilitation and public education."

The center is the only such facility set up to handle stranded animals in the state. It allows veterinarians and other scientists to learn a great deal about the animals through the rehab process, she said.

The center has even employed radio transmitters for satellite tagging, learning where released critters go and how they do once they've been released into the wild. Noll said it involves "expensive tools," but the insight into the biology and physiology of the creatures is invaluable.

"We can base some of our success on the results of satellite transmitting data," she said.

In the five years the program has been operating, it has averaged 100 to 120 animals a year, she said. Many of those represent species on the decline or listed as endangered. The information helps determine why and can be used to better manage those species, she said.

The bulk of the NOAA money, some $8 million, will go to the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, an agency created through legislation sponsored by Stevens which works to increase demand, product usage and awareness of the state's seafood products. Through a grant program, the board will develop and promote Alaska seafood and improve related technology and transportation with an emphasis on wild salmon, the announcement said.

Other projects receiving funding from the $13.36 million include:

$1.16 million will go to the North Pacific Management Council to address the management of its fisheries relative to Steller sea lions. The council also will receive an additional $493,030 to support its responsibilities under the American Fisheries Act.

$472,395 to the Prince William Sound Science Center to complete a Nowcast-Forecast Information System.

$169,690 to the Bering Sea Fishermen's Association for completion of a CDQ data base to provide a stable information base to assist regulatory bodies in examining and evaluation changes in the communities participating in the program.

$969,656 to Fish and Game for costs associated with implementing the Pacific Salmon Treaty and to help provide technical support in managing Yukon River salmon fisheries in the context of U.S.-Canada negotiation commitments.

$483,858 to the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association for a multifaceted research program to aid in the assessment, restoration and research of Yukon River salmon.

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