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Deadlines Announced to Participate in BBEDC's Vessel Upgrade Program

Celeste Novak

Commercial fishermen from the Bristol Bay region are eligible for money and assistance to upgrade their vessels. The assistance comes from the local community development quota organization for the Bristol Bay region. However, there are some looming deadlines for fishermen to consider. For over a decade now the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation has been trying to help local commercial fishermen chill their catch at the point of harvest. That effort began with the ability for local fishermen to get free slush ice bags, insulated totes and flexible sheet foam for insulating fish holds. That program was restricted to just fishermen from the 17 communities within the BBEDC coverage area but the Corporation has just expanded the program beyond those boundaries. That means the commercial fishermen who live year-round in New Stuyahok, Koliganek and the Iliamna Lake communities are now eligible to receive those free chilling tools. The ordering deadline for the free totes and slush bags is February 15th and the deadline to order the flexible sheet foam insulation is the middle of March. Something new this year is a program to assist local fishermen with their RSW system. BBEDC Regional Fisheries Manager Fritz Johnson says the Corporation can assist with providing spring tune-ups.

“BBEDC has invested a lot to encourage chilling. We thought that those who have invested in RSW system could use some assistance as well. These machines need maintenance and we thought it might be useful to make sure these systems are in good working order before the start of the fishing season.”

The deadline to take advantage of the assistance for a spring tune up for a RSW system is March 15th. One of the most popular program run by BBEDC is the vessel upgrade program that allows $20-thousand dollar grants for drift fishermen and $10-thousand dollars for setnet fishermen. In the past, BBEDC accepted grant applications year round but recently the Corporation put in place a deadline of February 28th. Johnson says the goal is to encourage more pre-planning.

“If we know that we are going to be doing 10 flush deck projects we might be able to buy materials in bulk and save people some money.”

The vessel upgrade grants are limited to commercial fishermen who live in the 17-BBEDC communities. Last year BBEDC provided grants for just over 100 projects. Information about the program can be found on the BBEDC website and from the Corporation’s community liaisons.