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Business/Economy

Federal fisheries aid will be $50 million, half what Alaska had expected

Pollock move along a conveyor belt where by catch is pulled off as the the fish first enter the Unisea processing plant in Unalaska to be converted into fillets, surimi, bio-diesel, and fish meal. (Bob Hallinen/ADN file photo)

JUNEAU — The state of Alaska will receive $50 million in federal coronavirus aid for fisheries, the U.S. Department of Commerce said Thursday.

While that amount ties with Washington for the most given to any individual state, it’s only half what state officials had expected. In 2018, Alaska landed 58% of the nation’s seafood by volume and 32% when measured by value. (Alaska waters are home to large stocks of pollock, the inexpensive fish used in fast-food sandwiches and fish sticks.)

With those facts in mind, the administration of Gov. Mike Dunleavy had expected Alaska would receive one-third of the $300 million set aside in the federal CARES Act for fisheries dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, going so far to request in advance that the Alaska Legislature’s budget and audit committee give it authority to accept $100 million in federal fisheries aid.

That authority has not yet been granted because of disputes over its legality.

If that money is approved, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would be in charge of distributing it to commercial, subsistence and sport fishermen who have been affected by the pandemic.

Jeff Turner, the governor’s deputy communications director, said the administration was just notified and “is still in the process of reviewing the allocation.”

Alaska’s congressional delegation said in a written statement that another section of the bill allows federally registered tribes to share $1 million for subsistence fisheries.

“We’re pleased this crucial industry to our state is going receive necessary relief to help keep them afloat, and we will be focused on securing additional resources for fisheries in the next coronavirus bill,” the delegation said in a joint message.

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