In what is being described as Alaska’s worst pink salmon season in 40 years, the state is being asked to lend a hand financially.
Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, has asked Gov. Bill Walker to issue a disaster declaration for the pink salmon fishery, which has a total harvest to date of just over 36 million fish, compared to the preseason forecast of 90 million humpies. The disaster declaration would open the door to federal disaster aid for those affected.
Stutes also has asked the Alaska Division of Investments for a waiver of payments due this year from state funded loans to fishermen, so that those payments can be put on the end of their loan rather than paid this year.
Stutes, who chairs the Alaska House Fisheries Committee, said the procedure to allow for this is already provided for in existing loans, but because of the number of people likely to apply to skip this year’s payment, it would be more expedient for the state to not have to go through this for each individual loan. She said that those interested in the waiver should call the state at 1-800-478-loan prior to the due date on their loan payment.
Stutes said she approached the state agencies after going door-to-door in Kodiak and speaking with people impacted by the dismal harvest of pink salmon, including cannery workers.
“This has been a financial disaster to coastal communities, not having these fish landing,” she said. “It is affecting processors, fishermen, cannery workers, which affects every business in every one of these communities. We all depend on fishermen, fish, processors and our workers to keep a viable community and the fish are the main ingredient, and we are missing them this year,” she said.