Cordova District Fishermen United is pulling out all stops to make sure everyone involved in the 2020 Copper River salmon opener in mid-May knows it is not going to be business as usual and that city and state mandates in place must be adhered to.
“We have been working with the incident command team to set up realistic restrictions to keep the fishery safe during COVID-19,” said John Renner, vice president of CDFU.
Cordova residents, like others involved in the multi-million-dollar commercial salmon fisheries all over Alaska, are facing more than the usual challenges this year, in the face of the novel coronavirus that has caused a pandemic.
“I think we still have some work to do over the next couple of weeks, just tightening our protocols and implementing our port of entry plans,” said Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin.
“We posted our harbor plan and are encouraging the community to look at that and direct suggestions through firstname.lastname@example.org. They can send harbor or airport suggestions there,” he said.
To date the virus has infected more than 2 million people worldwide, with 134,560 of those patients succumbing to the virus, while another 510,004 are not totally recovered. In the United States alone, as of Wednesday, April 15, 644,089 people were diagnosed with the virus, of which 28,529 have died and 1,868 have recovered. Alaska to date has diagnosed 293 people as infected, of which 178 are still active cases, with a total of nine deaths. To date nobody has tested positive for COVID-19 in Cordova and residents want to keep it that way.
Every one of the 560 drift gillnet permit holders, as well as some 260 seine permit holders has been supplied with copies of city and state mandates on how to conduct their fishery this year, including the 14-day quarantine for everyone coming into Cordova, Renner said.
“We are communicating (mandates) to all fishermen, including nonmembers,” said Renner. “We are totally behind the mandates and if people follow the rules we can proceed with a safe season. We are working diligently to get the word out.
“It’s not business as usual by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “We are trying to list all the mandates, all the local business requirements and tell them realistic ways to quarantine,” he said.
Renner acknowledged that they don’t have all the answers.
“We are just trying to figure out solutions to make this work. We believe we provide an essential service for people who have no other access to our protein,” he said
“Enforcement is a problem,” he acknowledged. “We are very concerned with people who ignore the mandates. We are making everyone aware of this.”
“We wish we could test everyone coming into the community with a rapid test, but we don’t have the capacity at this time,” he said.
Renner said CDFU was appreciative of efforts of the Copper Rifer and Prince William Sound Marketing Association for getting personal protective equipment to outfit the fishing fleet.
“A lot of people are coming together to make this work,” he said. “Hopefully we are conveying the seriousness of this to the fleet.”
In addition to concerns prompted by the pandemic, Renner said fishermen are very concerned about prices this year, because of closure of restaurants nationwide.
“We are high end, high quality fish,” he said. “For that issue, it will be a wait and see situation.”