Independent fishermen hard hit by seafood markets crashing and prevention requirements of operating during a global pandemic say that loss of income, community health and safety and the proposed Pebble mine are their top concerns.
When the coronavirus was first documented in the United States and seafood markets crashed, SalmonState, a broad based non-profit communications network dedicated to protection of Alaska’s salmon habitat, realized the need to get a handle on what fishermen were experiencing and needing, said Tyson Fick, a Southeast Alaska fisherman and spokesperson for SalmonState. “As a result, we have an invaluable snapshot of what Alaskan fishermen want and need right now,” Fick said.
Between April 14 and May 3, SalmonState surveyed 779 Alaska fishermen, primarily salmon harvesters, who also fish for other species. The group included permit holders, crew and individual fishing quota owners.
When asked about issues facing the fisheries prior to the pandemic, fish prices, the proposed mine and climate change were the top three concerns. With the impact of the novel coronavirus, primary concerns were identified as loss of income, prevention of the spread of COVID-19 into coastal communities, and bad policy decisions while fishermen are distracted, including regulatory decisions and Pebble mine issues.
SalmonState said fishermen are guarding against negative effects of COVID-19 by doing more work with less time and resources, with 51 percent of respondents indicating they would look for work outside the fishing industry.
The most common answer for how emergency relief funds can best help fishermen was “direct funds to affected fishermen.” Concerns were also voiced regarding debt consolidation and forgiveness issues. About an equal number of respondents thought that emergency funds would be best spent on increased infrastructure for direct marketing and allowing emergency transfers of permits and quota.
The full report can be found online at: http://alaskasalmonhabitat.org/publications/