Regional health corporation wants fishery closed

Fishing vessels docked in Cordova Harbor. (April 29, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Bristol Bay Area Health Corp. wants state officials to close the 2020 Bristol Bay area wild salmon fishery, citing the potential devastating risk to residents of 28 villages the regional entity serves.

As a tribal health organization and critical access hospital, BBAHC’s priority is its tribal members and year-round residents, hospital officials said in a statement released on April 23.

The health corporation has a surge plan in place for year-round residents, should that need arise, but does not have the resources to plan for additional influx beyond that surge, the BBAHC said in a statement.

The corporation has not received a commitment from the state or the city of Dillingham regarding what additional resources would be provided in the event of an onset of COVID-19 in the region, the statement said. Should a serge occur without a plan of action, their resources would most likely be strained and overwhelmed, they said.

“Historically, we’ve been able to accommodate and care for the influx of visitors and their related fractures and other injuries typical of the fishing season,” said Robert Clark, president and chief executive officer of BBAHC. “However, if COVID-19 comes to our region, even the handling of our summer injuries may be next to impossible. We are genuinely concerned about our capabilities to absorb several hundred potential COVID-19 cases.”