$53.8 M approved for pink salmon fishery losses

Bowpickers return to Cordova from the second commercial Copper River opener on Monday, May 21, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

NOAA Fisheries has approved $53.8 million for distribution in Alaska for harvesters, processors and others who suffered financial losses due to the disastrous 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery disaster.

Alaska’s congressional delegation said in an announcement on July 2 that NOAA had approved and transferred those funds to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, which is tasked with distributing payments to fishermen, their crews, processors and for salmon research in affected regions.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, said the money has been a long time coming. “We pushed hard to secure this relief for those whose livelihoods depend on the health of four fisheries,” they said in a statement.

Then Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in January 2017 declared the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery a disaster due to low returns in Prince William Sound, Yakutat, South Alaska Peninsula, Southeast Alaska and the Kodiak, Chignik and Lower Cook Inlet management areas.

Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, also had been working to see those funds approved.

“For those who have been patiently waiting three long years foe this relief to arrive, I think it may finally be here,” she said in her latest legislative update for The Cordova Times.

Randy Fisher, executive director of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, said that as of July 2 his agency, with offices in Portland Ore., had not received the federal funds.

Fisher noted that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would determine what programs they want this money to go to.

“We’re just the tooth fairy,” he said. “ADF&G and the governor’s office figure out how they want that money distributed.”

Once they decide where they want the money to go, PSMFC will send out the applications, and determine the deadline for returning them, he said.