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Fisheries

Fisheries Disaster Relief Funds Approved and to be in Hands of Fishermen Soon

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week the approval of the first grant application to assist fishermen affected by the 2012 commercial fisheries failure in the Yukon Chinook, Kuskokwim Chinook and Cook Inlet fisheries.  

In 2012, low returns of Chinook salmon resulted in a fishery resource disaster.  That continued the pattern seen in 2010 and 2011 in the Yukon River and the 2011 failure in the Kuskokwim River.  In September of 2012, US Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank reviewed the information the State of Alaska provided and determined the commercial fisheries failed due to a fish resource disaster for the three regions. 

This month, the first grant application to assist the fishermen affected was approved.  Deputy Regional Administrator for Fisheries in Juneau Doug Mecum says the money will be awarded in direct payments.

“The total was $20 some million that was received through Congressional loan appropriation. We split out into two pieces. The first grant that we announced was $7.8 million that goes to the fishermen that are affected by the 2012 commercial fisheries failure that resulted from the low Chinook returns to the Yukon Kuskokwim as well as the Cook Inlet. The award would cover direct payments to commercial fishermen and breaks out about $3.2 million for the Yukon Kuskokwim and $4.6 million for the Cook Inlet region.”

Mecum says the grant for the commercial fishermen will be dispersed relatively easily. The Pacific State Marine Fisheries Commission, which worked with NOAA on other disaster programs, will mail out applications to permit holders in the affected areas.  When the applications are returned, they will be reviewed.  Mecum says the Pacific State Marine Fisheries Commission is hoping to get the checks out to the fishermen by the end of September. 

The second part of the disaster program involves subsistence fishing. The remainder of the over 20 million dollars will go to the subsistence fisheries in the Yukon Kuskokwim and the recreational industries affected in Cook Inlet. 

Mecum says NOAA and the Pacific State Marine Fisheries Commission really want to help the fishermen.

“Once we receive the funds, once the funds have been released by OMB, try to get them out the door as soon as we can so that people that are affected by what happened in 2012 can be compensated to some extent.”

The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission is developing a second grant proposal based on spend plans provided by NOAA.  That grant is expected to be awarded in a few months.