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Salmon Fishery Collapses in Alaska

WASHINGTON (CN) - A Chinook salmon fishery in Alaska has failed, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced Friday. Scientists attribute the loss to "predominately natural" causes.

"Changes in ocean and river conditions, including unfavorable shifts in temperatures and food sources, likely caused poor survival of Chinook salmon," read a Commerce Department statement.

In response, Alaska bared fishers last year from taking the Yukon River salmon. Even small-scale fishing for personal food is no longer allowed.

The determination comes at the request of Alaska Governor Sean Parnell. The government is prepared to help deliver resources to help fix the problem if they become available, although the disaster declaration does not entitle the state to federal funds.

Locke expressed concern for the fishers. "Alaska fishermen and their families are struggling with a substantial loss in income and revenues," he said. "These communities are very isolated and do not have the economic diversity to withstand the disastrous economic impact of extremely low or no commercial harvest."

The report said that by-catch of Chinook salmon in the Bering Sea may be a compounding factor, but maintains that natural causes are probably the largest player.

The salmon breed in fresh water, then travel down the river to spend most of their adult lives in the ocean. Females reproduce just once before dying.

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