Alaska Fisheries Disaster Declaration Approved
On January 21st, 2022, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced that her office has approved Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s request for an official disaster determination.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funds will be available to fishermen and crew members, seafood processors, and researchers who have felt the impact of this difficult season. The amount of the relief package will be determined at a later date. It is possible that some fishery related businesses will also be eligible for aid from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“Helping communities to bounce back from the impacts of fishery disasters is essential, and we are working to ensure there is relief coming for impacted Alaskans,” Raimondo said in a statement. “Disasters like these, which impact multiple fisheries across Alaska, illustrate how vital sustainable fisheries are to our economy at not only the local level, but for the economic health of our nation’s blue economy.”
In a letter written to the U.S. Commerce Department, Governor Dunleavy described heatwaves that are believed to have influenced ocean conditions. “These marine heatwaves likely contributed to continued low abundance and poor marine survival of salmon and Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska and northern Bering Sea. Environmental impacts likely play a role in the distribution, growth rate, and natural mortality of tanner crab as well.”
Secretary Raimondo’s office issued a statement determining that fourteen fishery disasters had occurred, involving multiple species:
- 2018 Upper Cook Inlet East Side Set Net
- 2018 Copper River Chinook and sockeye salmon
- 2019 Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab
- 2020 Prince William Sound salmon fisheries
- 2020 Copper River Chinook, sockeye, and chum salmon fisheries
- 2020 Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab
- 2020 Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska
- 2020 Alaska Norton Sound salmon
- 2020 Yukon River salmon
- 2020 Chignik salmon
- 2020 Kuskokwim River salmon
- 2020 Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries
- 2020 Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries
- 2021 Yukon River salmon fishery
“Alaska’s fisheries are economic and subsistence lifelines for individuals and communities across our state, and they also produce more than $15 billion in national value each year. Their strength and vibrancy is one of my top priorities, and the reason I have been pushing the administration to make disaster declarations to help overcome a number of remarkably challenging seasons,” Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a recent press release.
According to NOAA, allowable causes for a fishery resource disaster can include natural causes, regulatory restrictions imposed to protect human health or the marine environment, man-made causes beyond the control of fishery managers and many more. Additional information about Fishery Disaster Assistance can be found here.
Washington Fraser River Sockeye and Puget Sound Fall Chum Salmon Fisheries (Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe) have also requested disaster relief, which is still pending approval.