Commercial fishermen to receive $7.8 million in direct disaster aid

Cook Inlet, Yukon and Kuskokwim commercial fishermen will receive payments this fall as part of the 2012 fishery disaster relief funding.

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Monday that $7.8 million of the $20.8 million appropriated for the 2012 disaster declarations for Cook Inlet, Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers salmon returns would be used for direct aid payments.

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, a Portland, Ore.-based organization, will administer the grant and make the payments to eligible fishermen with $3.2 million intended for Yukon-Kuskokwim region fishermen, and $4.6 million for Cook Inlet fishermen.

Eligible Cook Inlet fishermen will receive a $2,000 fixed payment, plus a percentage based on their landings history from 2007 to 2011, according to National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, spokeswoman Julie Speegle.

According to information provided by the National Marine Fisheries Service, an estimated 443 permit holders from Cook Inlet’s East Side setnet fishery will be eligible to apply for payments, as will an additional 96 Northern District fishermen.

Yukon River fishermen will receive an estimated $4,952, with 631 permit holders eligible to apply, Speegle wrote in an email. That accounts for about $3.1 million of the total $3.2 million for Yukon and Kuskokwim permit holders.

An estimated 489 Kuskokwim River fishermen will be eligible for $165 payments, Speegle wrote.

That money is intended to compensate fishermen — at least partially — for losses in salmon fisheries that received a federal disaster declaration.

“I think it will be helpful to everyone at the end of the day,” said Ken Coleman, vice president of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association.

Upper Cook Inlet settnetters were almost entirely shutdown during the 2012 fishery due to concerns about the number of king salmon returning to the Kenai River.

The Yukon River designation was made for 2010, 2011 and 2012; the Kuskokwim River commercial failure was declared for 2011 and 2012; and the 2012 declaration was made for Cook Inlet, according to a letter from Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of commerce, to Gov. Sean Parnell. Runs on each of those rivers were well below average.

When the disaster declaration was being made, Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development Commissioner Susan Bell gave a letter to the federal government with a breakdown of the impacts on affected fisheries.

According to that information, commercial fishery permit holders lost about $16.8 million in direct ex-vessel revenue in the years included in the disaster designation.

“From the moment we learned that Alaska would receive fishery disaster relief funds, our first priority has been to get those dollars directly into the hands of fishermen who were impacted by the fisheries failure,” said Alaska Regional Administrator Jim Balsiger in a formal statement. “Approval of the grant application for direct assistance means that will happen very soon.”

According to the announcement, impacted fishermen will receive their applications for disaster relief funds in the mail.

Pacific States Executive Director Randy Fisher said applications would likely be sent out Aug. 22, and due back to the organization by Sept. 12.

Payments will be made shortly after the due date, he said.

Pacific States was also responsible for distributing the $5 million appropriation for the 2009 Yukon disaster.

Congress appropriated $20.8 million in aid for the 2012 disaster. According to the announcement from NMFS, Pacific States is developing a second grant proposal based on the spending plans developed by the several organizations, and NMFS expects to award that grant in the coming months.

11/22/2016 - 3:16pm