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State proposes to split $50 million in virus aid among fishermen

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: October 8
  • Published October 7

Fishing boats piled with nets take up much of the Cordova boat harbor on September 17, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is taking public comments on a plan to split $50 million in federal coronavirus aid among commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen.

Under the state plan, sportfishing businesses will share $16 million, commercial fishing businesses will split $16 million, and fish processors will split $16 million. Subsistence fishermen will split $1.5 million, and aquaculture businesses will share $500,000.

The aid will be distributed by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, which is expected to take applications later this year using the state’s plan.

Applicants will have to sign an affidavit swearing that they lost at least 35% of their fishing revenue between March 1 and Nov. 1 as a result of COVID-19.

Rachel Hanke, public information officer for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said it isn’t yet clear what information — if any — fishermen will need to provide. She said it’s difficult to say when money will reach fishermen.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’d like to see payments going out before the end of the year,” she said.

How much each business receives will depend on the number of applicants and on additional factors listed in the plan. Commercial fishermen, for example, receive one share of the commercial fishing money for each vessel permit and fishery permit they hold. They must be homeported in Alaska to receive money.

Processors will get shares based on the amount of their revenue — the more revenue, the more shares.

Sportfishing guides get one share each, sportfishing businesses get one share, and if someone is both a guide and a business, they get two shares.

The subsistence money will be divided among applicants who fished in a subsistence fishery at least two of the past four years.

Frances Leach, executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska, said her group is still reviewing the plan and didn’t have immediate comment.