Disaster aid sought for Upper Cook Inlet harvesters

Four Republican legislators representing the Kenai Peninsula say the state should declare an economic disaster for Upper Cook Inlet fisheries, along with a recovery plan.

“Commercial fishermen in Upper Cook Inlet experienced one of the worst seasons on record,” said the letter to addressed to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, signed by Senators Peter Micciche, of Soldotna, and Gary Stevens of Kodiak, and Representatives Ben Carpenter of Nikiski and Sarah Vance, of Homer. “In fact, 2020 was the worst season since 1971” due to a combination of lower fish returns, price impacts related to a COVID-19 depressed market and other factors, they told the governor.

The industry suffered an 82 percent reduction in the 10-year average value to harvesters at the dock, also known as the ex-vessel price.

The letter of Oct. 28 came on the heels of a declaration of a local disaster issued two weeks earlier by the Kenai Peninsula Borough for the 2020 Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishing season.

“Families who have fished these waters for generations are seeing their investments wither and the very real possibility of bankruptcy grow closer,” the legislators told Dunleavy. “Abnormally low harvest levels mean a dire financial year for these businesses than have been experienced in past years.”