Alaska fishermen still waiting for 2016 disaster relief funds

Alaska fishermen are still awaiting disaster relief funds for the 2016 pink salmon run failure, which was the worst in 40 years.

Congress approved $56 million that year for Alaska fishermen, processors and communities hurt by the fishery flop at three Alaska regions: Kodiak, Prince William Sound and Lower Cook Inlet. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and NMFS finalized plans and procedures for payouts last August. Since then, the paper push has stalled on various federal agency desks.

NOAA Fisheries missed a promised June 1 sign-off deadline and now says the funds will be released on the first of July, according to Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak who has been tracking the progress.

“It affects all the cannery workers all the processors, all the businesses in the community,” she said. “This has a big trickle-down effect.”

The draft spending plan awaiting approval provides for funds in four categories. Coastal communities that would have gotten 1.5 percent of the landed value of the foregone pink catch would receive $2.43 million. Just over $4 million was set aside for pink salmon research, and processors would get $17.7 million for lost wages as a result of the humpy bust.

Alaska fishermen would get the biggest chunk at $32 million. The funds would be distributed using a calculation to restore lost dockside value equal to 82.5 percent of their five even year averages.

As for the July 1 promise, Stutes said she “is not holding her breath because of the fed’s current track record in adhering to its own timelines.”

“They know I’m a squeaky wheel and my job is to keep this moving in a forward direction,” she said.

Meanwhile, West Coast fishermen affected by California’s 2015-16 Dungeness and rock crab fisheries were declared a disaster more than 2 1/2 years ago recieved good news recently. On May 22, 2019, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission announced that it had at long last received those funds to be disbursed.

 

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Laine Welch is an independent Kodiak, Alaska-based fisheries journalist. Click here to send her an email.

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