The U.S. Department of Commerce approved eight fisheries disasters in Alaska that happened between 2018 and 2021 across several different regions of the state.
This week, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo approved Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s request for official disaster determinations, opening the door to future relief funds for affected Alaskans.
“Helping communities to bounce back from the impacts of fishery disasters is essential, and we are working to ensure there is relief coming for impacted Alaskans,” Raimondo said in a statement.
The disasters pertain to dismal salmon runs in Cook Inlet, the Copper River, Prince William Sound and river systems across Southeast and Western Alaska, as well as Tanner crab stocks in the Eastern Bering Sea and cod in the Gulf of Alaska during recent years.
The federal action means that people and businesses hurt by the fishery collapses could be eligible for assistance from federal entities, though allocation amounts are not yet determined.
[High crab prices continue to lead all Alaska seafoods as increased demand during the pandemic continues]
In his letter requesting the declaration from the Commerce Department last March, Dunleavy wrote that multiple Alaska fisheries “have experienced drastic declines resulting from unprecedented conditions in recent years,” citing recent marine heat waves that have led to unfavorable ocean conditions.
The members of Alaska’s all-Republican congressional delegation cheered the news on Friday, writing in a joint written statement that the federal funds could help compensate “crews, seafood processors, and research initiatives in the impacted regions.”
“Now that a fishery disaster has been declared, we can work to secure appropriations,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan.
“Our state’s fisheries are a central part of our economy and way of life, particularly for Alaska Natives who have harvested fish from our waters for millennia,” said Rep. Don Young. “Today’s news from the Department of Commerce is a bright spot for our fishermen, processors, and others who rely on a strong and vibrant seafood sector.”
The Commerce Department is still evaluating other disaster requests from states and tribes outside of Alaska.