United Fishermen of Alaska is voicing strong objections to the state’s draft CARES Act Funding Plan over the percentage of that $50 million proposed to go to commercial and sport fishing charter entities and the exclusion of the state’s private non-profit salmon hatcheries.
UFA also told Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials in its letter of Oct. 22 that when the agency issues a revied draft spending plan to allow a new comment period for review.
The umbrella organization representing a number of commercial fisheries businesses said that payments made to commercial fishing and sport fishing charter recipients should have parity by being limited to Alaska residents, since initial allocations by NOAA at the state level were calculated based on the residency of business owners.
They noted that the current draft spending plan requires that commercial fishing participants be Alaska residents, but not those in the sport charter sector. More importantly, they said, there is not an adequate explanation why the state increased the allocation to the sport charter sector from NOAA’s recommended 5.5 percent to 32 percent of that $50 million. “Given an estimated 5,000 qualified shares in the sport fishing charter sector each applicant would receive $7,868 per share. In comparison, there are over 20,000 shares on the commercial fisheries side and commercial fishery applicants would receive only $790 per share,” UFA told ADF&G officials.
That allocation boost to the sport charter sector was essentially funded by a decrease to the processing sector allocation, companies that incurred large costs very much tied to COVID-19 expenses to operate safely in Alaska’s rural communities.
UFA also expressed concern for private non-profit salmon hatchers who are currently considered ineligible entities and asked that ADF&G grant eligibility for them to apply for relief by modifying Section 12005 of the CARES Act Relief for Fisheries Participation Draft Spend Plan.
These hatcheries, said UFA, hold permits to allow for licensing of cost recovery operations and are significant contributors to all user groups, especially commercial harvesters, with an economic impact of $602 million annually statewide. Several of these hatcheries face serious economic losses in 2020 due to COVID-19’s impact on operational costs and seafood markets, and should be eligible for relief, UFA said.