A total of $50 million in fishery assistance secured through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was mailed in mid-December to commercial harvesters, sport fishing charters and seafood processors in Alaska.
The funding came as a result of efforts by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to make direct assistance available to subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants, processors, fishery-related businesses and fishery-dependent communities that have been negatively affected by the economic and other impacts of COVID-19.
“Alaska’s fisheries and seafood sector are a critical driver of our state’s economy, employing more than 58,000 people and producing billions of dollars in economic output in our state each year,” Murkowski said. “As I worked to help craft the CARES Act, I was adamant that robust funding was included for those who bring Alaskan halibut, salmon, and countless other seafood products to market.”
“I recognize that the time between allocation and distribution has been frustrating and long, but I’m encouraged to know that those checks are officially hitting the mailboxes of hardworking Alaskans,” she continued. “The positive impacts this funding will have will be felt not only here at home, but across the nation as it boosts our economy and allows Alaska’s world class seafood to continue to be enjoyed around the globe.”
Chris Barrows, president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, added that the funding serves as a vital source of support for fishermen.
“We appreciate that Congress recognized the need to support those in our seafood supply chain that are experiencing losses, through this and other support programs,” he remarked.
“Many charter operators and guides were devastated by the loss of business due to COVID, and these funds are a welcome relief,” added Ben Mohr, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.
Tracy Welch, Executive Director of United Fishermen of Alaska said that the UFA was glad to hear that the initial $50 million of fisheries relief funding was finally being distributed to Alaskans.
“The lengthy wait for the distribution of these funds, at a time when fishermen needed assistance the most, highlights the need for improvement of the distribution process for disaster relief funds for the fishing industry,” Welch said.
The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission is currently drafting applications for round two of CARES ACT funding, which is expected to be available in mid-to-late January.
More information is available on the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission website: relief.psmfc.org