SitNews: $53 Million Approved for Fishermen & Stakeholders Affected by 2016 Gulf of Alaska Pink
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the approval of $53.8 million to restore losses for Alaska fisheries impacted by the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery disaster. NOAA approved the funds Tuesday and transferred the funds to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the agency tasked with distributing the relief payments to fishermen and their deckhands, processors, and for salmon research in the affected regions.
“This funding has been a long-time coming. We are pleased that Alaskans who have been waiting for this economic relief that was promised to them will finally receive it. By restoring losses incurred during the 2016 pink salmon disaster, our federal government is following through not only on the commitment we made to Alaska’s commercial fisherman, but also to their families, processors, and coastal communities who were hit hard by this disaster,” said the Alaska Congressional Delegation in a prepared statement. “We pushed hard to secure this relief for those whose livelihoods depend on the health of our fisheries. And we will continue to stand up for Alaska’s fisheries to ensure that this industry that is so vital to our state remains strong and vibrant for generations to come.”
Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery disaster in January 2017, due to disastrously low returns. The following Alaska areas were included in the disaster declaration for poor pink salmon harvests in 2016: Prince William Sound, Kodiak Management, Chignik Management, Lower Cook Inlet Management, Yakutat, South Alaska Peninsula, and Southeast.
Following the disaster declaration, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced in June 2018 that Alaska would receive $56.3 million in disaster funding to support compensation, recovery, and relief for fishermen, communities, and stakeholders affected by the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery disaster. (Note: NOAA’s announcement accounts for the approval and release of over $53 million of the $56.3 million total funding package.)
Previously the State of Alaska in consultation with the Alaska Regional Office of NOAA developed a draft distribution plan for these funds, that will be administered by the Pacific States Marine Commission (PSMFC). Upon receipt of the funds, PSMFC will employ the Alaska disaster distribution plan to administer the funds to the affected entities. The State of Alaska's intent, according to the appropriation language, is to distribute the federal funds to the affected parties as soon as practical.
Disbursement of funds will be prioritized based on the following criteria: 1) funds will be allocated to improve fishery information to better assess and forecast future fishery performance; 2) fishery participants directly involved and harmed by the 2016 pink salmon disaster; 3) funds will be disbursed to positively affect the broadest number of people possible; and 4) address losses to primary business and infrastructure that directly support pink salmon fisheries and that incurred the greatest losses as a result of the disaster.
There are four categories outlined in the Alaska draft spending plan: research, municipalities, fishery participants, and processors. The distribution plan describes each category, eligibility criteria, and methods for allocating disaster funds. The State of Alaska solicited input from the public, affected users, and user groups on these elements of the spending plan.
Quoting a news release from the Alaska Congressional Delegation, Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young fought to secure inclusion of fisheries disaster funding in the Bipartisan Budget Act, which was signed into law in February 2018 and appropriated $200 million for fisheries disasters across eight states and U.S. territories.
This funding appropriation was in response to nine fisheries disasters declared in Alaska, Washington, California and Oregon, coupled with fisheries failures in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
By: Mary Kauffman