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YRDFA To Seek Second Disaster Declaration For Yukon Fish While First Sits In Limbo

Scientists suspect heat stress killed a large number of summer chum salmon migrating through the Koyukuk River, a tributary of the Yukon. The carcasses held underdeveloped eggs and sperm, indicating that the salmon were far from their spawning grounds,  w
Stephanie Quinn-Davidson
Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

For the second year in a row, salmon runs on the Yukon River are so low that local managers will request a state disaster declaration. King salmon numbers remain low, and summer chum numbers are the lowest on record.

During the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association (YDFRA) meeting on June 29, the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission’s director, Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, announced plans to request a new disaster declaration this season. 


"One was submitted last year that was led up by YRDFA and Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association. They took the lead on disaster requests last year. The fish commission, AVCP, TCC all signed on to it. We'll be doing it again this year," said Quinn-Davidson.


Quinn-Davidson said that the process will take a while, and that fishermen should not expect to receive funds right away. 


"We don't anticipate that funding would be available to fishermen for at least a year, maybe, possibly two years," she said.


When the state declares an incident to be a disaster, it frees up to $1 million in immediate funding to be spent on disaster response and recovery that the governor can use at his discretion. The governor can later request reimbursement from the federal government, which can take years after disaster events. In this case, the state did not declare a disaster. Quinn-Davidson said that last year’s disaster declaration had simply been forwarded to the federal government for approval, bypassing the state-level disaster declaration. 


Serena Cuucitcuar Fitka, the director of YRFDA, said that she submitted the request for the previous year's disaster declaration in Nov. 2020. The governor submitted the request to the U.S. Department of Commerce on March 8, 2021, and the declaration is currently pending approval.


Olivia Ebertz is a News Reporter for KYUK. She also works as a documentary filmmaker. She enjoys learning languages, making carbs, and watching movies.