NOAA Fisheries allocates $15.7M for Copper River/Prince William Sound fishery disasters

Raimondo pledges work to help impacted communities to recover

NOAA Fisheries has allocated over $220 million in fisheries disaster funds appropriated by Congress in the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act for fishery disasters in Alaska and Washington,

including the 2020 Copper River/Prince William Sound coho and pink salmon fisheries.

For the 2020 Copper River/Prince William Sound salmon fisheries along, the allocation totals $15.7 million, NOAA Fisheries said.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced the allocations on May 18, saying that her agency would work with affected communities to help them recover. NOAA Fisheries used commercial revenue loss information to allocate these funds across eligible disaster areas.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang said his department will work with affected stakeholders to develop spend plans for each fishery.

Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said NOAA understands that these fishery disasters, some of which area related to climate change, are of great concern to the fishing industry and communities depending on fisheries to support their local economies and subsistence users.


Activities that can be considered for funding include fishery-related infrastructure projects, habitat restoration, state-run vessel and fishing permit buybacks, job retraining and more. Some fishery-related businesses impacted by the fishery disasters may also be eligible for assistance from the Small Business Administration. 

While NOAA will work with states receiving disaster allocations, fishing communities and individuals affected by these disasters are advised to work with their state agencies and/or the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission as appropriate.

A decision on Alaska’s 2020 Yukon River salmon fisheries is still pending, but for those already approved Vincent-Lang said that given the number of affected fisheries his department plans to host a virtual listening session to get input from all affected participants.

“Meeting details for the virtual listening session will be released as soon as possible,” he said. Opportunities to comment on the draft plan will be provided before the final plans are submitted for approval.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, noted that news of disaster funding came at a time when several Alaska fisheries are experiencing traumatizing and devastating collapses.

“Our fisheries are vital to our state and the nation, and this support will go to important research and recovery efforts that can help fishermen and fishing communities right now,” she said. “Alaskans are resilient — we will get back on our feet.”

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, described the disaster funds as “welcome news that will ensure that our fishermen can continue to responsibly harvest the freshest, most sustainable seafood in the world.”

On Nov. 15, 2022, the Alaska delegation sent a letter to Raimondo in support of 2020-2023 fishery disaster declarations by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Two days later, Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan, along with Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both D-WA, sent another letter to Raimondo, requesting a federal disaster for several crab fisheries. Then on Dec. 16, 2022, the Department of Commerce determined that fishery disasters had occurred in numerous Alaska fisheries, allowing for funds to be distributed to fishermen and their crews, seafood processors, and for research initiatives in regions where these disasters occurred.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, said that while these funds are a welcome step to bring some relief, that all efforts must continue to restore the state’s fisheries.

“A new round of subsistence fishing closures was just announced on the Yukon River, marking the fourth year in a row that subsistence fishermen have not been able to put nets in the water for chum salmon,” Peltola said. “This is a crisis that threatens both food security for many villages and our cultural heritage. Disaster relief funding for specific fisheries alone is not enough — we need large-scale action.”

Jamie Goen, executive director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, noted the ongoing impact of crab fishery closures on fishing families and the economy of coastal communities. She said efforts to date of the Department of Commerce and Congress have been helpful, as the crabbers plan for the future to build a more resilient crab fishery.

“These funds can help us get there,” Goen said.

In addition to the $15.7 million coming to the 2020 Copper River/Prince William Sound salmon fisheries, funds allocated in this latest fisheries disaster relief effort also include:

  • $15,746.103 for the 2021 Kuskokwim River and 2021 Norton Sound salmon fisheries;
  • $1,269,586 for the 2021 Chignik salmon fishery;
  • $4,994,897 for the 2020 and 2021 Norton Sound red king crab fisheries;
  • $2,807,021 for the 2020/2021 Bering Sea crab fisheries;
  • $94,584,310 for the 2021/2022 Bering Sea crab fisheries;
  • and $96,718,184 for the 2022/2023 Bering Sea crab fisheries.