January 20, 2017
Calling it a fishery failure, the US Commerce Secretary this week set the stage for Alaska pink salmon fishermen in three regions to seek disaster assistance.
The pink fishery overall last summer was the worst in more than 40 years. Harvesters from Kodiak, Prince William Sound and Lower Cook Inlet are eligible to apply – if the money is appropriated by Congress.
The push for pink relief was spearheaded by Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak. She pointed out that the pink salmon bust is felt far beyond the fishing nets – it trickles down to processing workers and businesses throughout the communities.
Her request for relief funds got the backing of Governor Walker in late September.
How bad was it? Kodiak’s pink salmon catch barely broke three million out of a projected 16 million fish. At Prince William Sound, a catch of 13 million was down by nearly two thirds of what was expected. In Lower Cook Inlet, a pink take of just 97,000 was less than 13 percent of the forecast.
The pink disaster declaration won’t set a precedent. Alaska received nearly $8 million in federal money in 2012 due to low king salmon runs on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers and in the Cook Inlet region.
It will now be a bit of a waiting game as the disaster funds must get a green light from Congress. Representative Stutes says her office will be tracking the time frames and who and how people can apply for what will be monetary payouts.
“ This is not going to be a blanket money grab for anybody that fished pinks. If you’re in the disaster area and the large portion of your income was based on pink salmon, then I believe you will be eligible. “
Pink salmon is Alaska’s largest salmon fishery. It was one of nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alaska, California and Washington declared as disasters, including California’s Dungeness crab fishery; most of the others are for West Coast Tribal salmon fisheries.
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