Cordova urges state to declare fishery disaster

A fishing vessel in Orca Inlet. (June 5, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Wednesday, Aug. 5, Cordova City Council voted unanimously to encourage the state to declare an economic disaster in Cordova. The decision was made in response to extremely low numbers of salmon harvested in 2018 and 2020, as well as to the economic damage done to the fishing industry by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2018 Copper River sockeye salmon harvest netted just 44,400 fish, 97 percent lower than the most recent 10-year average and the second-lowest harvest in the last 100 years, according to the resolution passed by the council. Similarly, the 2020 Copper River drift gillnet fishery harvested only 97,360 sockeye salmon, 91 percent under the 10-year average. Additionally, the negative financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic has compounded the effects of weak harvests, the resolution contends. The overall value of the common property gillnet fishery has declined from $50-60 million during 2010-2015 to around $35 million, according to a release by Cordova District Fishermen United, a nonprofit advocating for fishery interests.

CDFU also voiced strong support for the resolution. The underlying causes of the 2018 and 2020 fishery failures are poorly understood and there remains a need for extensive further research, CDFU Executive Director Chelsea Haisman wrote in a letter to the council.

The council passed the resolution as part of its consent calendar, without debate.