The mayor of Dillingham, Alaska -- the largest town in Bristol Bay, home to the world's largest sockeye salmon run -- has joined the chief of Alaska's Curyung Tribal Council in calling on the state's governor to close the area to commercial fishing this season.
Dillingham Mayor Alice Ruby and Curyung Tribal Council Chief Thomas Tilden wrote a strongly worded letter to Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy Monday urging him to consider closing Bristol Bay’s commercial fishery to protect the community from the coronavirus pandemic, Alaska's public radio station KDLG reported.
"We have considered many, many alternatives and we cannot foresee ANY plan that would avoid a significant impact to our community," the letter said. "There is no way to prevent a potential mass disease situation."
The letter comes soon after other groups, including Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC), called for workers traveling in from outside the state to be required to test for coronavirus in addition to the state's preventive quarantine mandates.
Ruby and Tilden expressed their concern for the governor's lack of action so far, noting the community has relied on "corporate conscience" to even be a part of the planning process.
Jeff Turner, a spokesman for Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, told IntraFish the governor has no plans at this time to close the Bristol Bay fishery despite growing calls for the decision.
"Please consider that we are at a point where a decision must be made," said the letter. "A delay will bring us so close to the opening of the fishery that any alternatives will be impossible."
The city and tribe are asking the governor to take action now so that Dillingham can either devote resources to further control the fishery if it is going to proceed as planned, or work on how to deal with the economic hit from not having a salmon season.
The salmon fishery generates around $660 million (€588.8 million) annually for the state.
"By waiting to make a decision, you put all of us at the end of the line, so to speak," the letter said.
The Curyung Tribe has declared a state of emergency and disaster for the tribal community, and the city council has approved a resolution restricting travel into Dillingham.
There are no reported cases in the region as of Tuesday morning, according to KDLG.