Commission seeks proposals for ’12 salmon disaster funds

The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission is asking for proposals on how to spend $2.2 million in federal disaster funds geared toward salmon research in Cook Inlet and the Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

The funding opportunities will be welcome in wake of state budget cuts that claimed the Chinook Salmon Research Initiative. The program was slated to give $30 million over a period of years for in-river chinook studies, but only $15 million was used before Gov. Bill Walker’s administration cut the funding.

Randy Fisher, the commission’s executive director, said the total amount will be split between six different areas of study, with each study receiving between $20,000 and $400,000. Because the disasters were declared for Cook Inlet and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region in 2012, the research projects will focus in the same areas.

Research areas are broken down into six themes: predators and mortality, drivers of freshwater mortality, drivers of marine mortality, escapement quality, biological drivers of production, and density-dependent effects.

A team of six scientists will assess pre-proposals, including directors of the sport and commercial fishing divisions of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, along with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington.

If pre-proposals meet criteria, they will be accepted as full proposals. The team will decide which proposals receive funding on Jan. 15, 2016. Pre-proposals will be accepted through Oct. 30.

Pre-proposals should not be more than three pages in length, and include the title of the project, the names and contact information for investigators and an identification of the project leader, the project’s time period, the requested amount between $20,000 and $400,000, the study’s location, and an abstract that summarizes the project, including objectives, research methods, and anticipated outcomes.

Individuals, organizations, Native and state bodies, and institutions of higher education are all eligible to submit pre-proposals.

The commission administers the payments for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, who in 2012 declared federal fishery disasters for the 2012 Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries, the 2010-12 Yukon River king salmon runs and 2011-12 Kuskokwim king runs.

In 2014, Congress appropriated $75 million for those disasters and others throughout the country. Since February, the federal fishery managers have been working with the state and others to develop a plan for distributing Alaska’s appropriation of $20.8 million, $7.8 million of which was distributed to commercial salmon fishermen in August 2014.

Cook Inlet, Yukon and Kuskokwim commercial fishermen received payments last fall as the first part of the fishery disaster relief funding. Eligible Cook Inlet fishermen received a $2,000 fixed payment, plus a percentage based on their landings history from 2007 to 2011, according to National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman Julie Speegle.

Another $4.8 million was reserved for sportfishing businesses affected by the disaster.

DJ Summers is a reporter for the Alaska Journal of Commerce.