Copper River, PWS fisheries approved for disaster relief

A vessel navigates Cordova Harbor. (Aug. 24, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Copper River and Prince William Sound salmon fisheries are among 14 Alaska fisheries disasters from 2018 to 2021 approved on Jan. 21 by Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo for relief funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The complete list includes Prince William Sound salmon fisheries for 2020; Copper River Chinook, sockeye and chum salmon fisheries for 2018; Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries for 2020; Copper River Chinook and sockeye salmon fisheries in 2018; Copper River Chinook, sockeye and chum salmon fisheries in 2020; Upper Cook Inlet East side setnet fisheries for 2018; Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab for 2019/2020; Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska for 2020; Yukon River salmon fishery for 2021, and 2020 salmon fisheries for Norton Sound, Yukon River, Chignik, Kuskokwim River and Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries, Interior officials said.

These positive determinations make the fisheries eligible for disaster assistance from NOAA.

Further information on actual funding, how eligibility will be determined, when the application process will begin and when those approved can expect payment is to be announced at a later date.

The disaster declaration itself must meet specific requirements under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and/or the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act, such as natural causes beyond the control of fishery managers to mitigate.

Commerce officials said some fishery-related businesses impacted by these disasters may also be eligible for assistance from the Small Business Administration.

Alaska’s congressional delegation approval of the aid, which was requested by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy last year. The delegation had sent a letter to Raimondo last September in support of the 2020 and 2021 fisheries disaster declarations announced by Dunleavy.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, noted the critical importance of these fisheries on an economic and subsistence basis for many Alaska communities and residents, and said they will be a welcome relief to all who receive them.

“Now that a fishery disaster has been declared, we can work to secure appropriations to fund these fishery disaster declarations,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, noted that the past couple of years have been tough for the state’s fisheries.

These fisheries, said Young, “are a central part of our economy and a way of life, particularly for Alaska Natives who have harvested fish from our waters for millennia.”