Disaster relief approved for 2016 fishery

Disaster relief funding totally $56,361,332 are coming to Alaska in the wake of the low returns in the state’s 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery, but just when they will become available is still an unknown.

Alaska’s congressional delegation announced this past week that disaster relief funding for Alaska has been approved to support compensation, recovery and relief for impacted harvesters, communities and stakeholders.

Then a spokesperson for Gov. Bill Walker’s office said on June 26 that the funds will be available in the form of a grant that the Pacific States Marine Fishery Commission must apply for, and that once the grant is awarded the commission will work with Walker’s office, NOAA and other stakeholders on an allocation plan. That allocation plan, in turn, must be approved by the federal Office of Management and Budget and the congressional delegation.

The funds are part of the Commerce Department’s response to nine fisheries disasters declared in Alaska, Washington, California and Oregon, couples with fisheries failures in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Islands as a result of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Mari.

While Alaska’s pink salmon fishery had disastrously low returns in 2016, salmon and crab fisheries in other West Coast states suffered pronged closures or poor returns between 2014 and 2016.

Alaska last saw federal grants for fishery disaster relief in 2014, when $20.8 million was granted for harvesters and communities along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and in Cook Inlet who were impacted by low Chinook salmon runs in 2012.