If a draft plan on how Alaska’s $50 million share of federal fisheries assistance payouts gets the ok, the average sport charter operator would get nearly 10 times what commercial fishermen would receive.
That’s just one of the unexplained inequities pointed out by over 200 respondents during the first comment period last month. A second draft is now open briefly for public comment.
Alaskans were asked in October by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game to respond to a plan that outlined eligibility for seafood processing workers, commercial and sport fishing, and subsistence and aquaculture sectors. The money is part of the $300 million CARES ACT fisheries assistance which will be distributed as direct payments to eligible participants.
Nearly all of the responses, from Alaska’s largest fishing companies to single users, questioned the equity and logic of how the funding pie was apportioned.
United Fishermen of Alaska, for example, asked why the state increased the sport charter share from NOAA’s recommended 5.5% to 32% of the $50 million. UFA added it would give about 5,000 sport charter applicants nearly $8,000 per share compared to just $790 for more than 20,000 fishermen.
The sport boost came at the expense of the seafood processing sector without any analysis or justification, said the Alaska Salmon Alliance. Processors with over 50 employees were left out of the relief package despite paying $50 million or more on Covid prevention measures.
Many groups also noted that payouts required that commercial fishermen be Alaska residents but that is not required for sport charters.
UFA also objected to Alaska’s salmon hatcheries being excluded from getting relief funds based on their yearly contributions to the state’s fisheries and the hit they also took from the pandemic.
Subsistence users questioned how their 3% share was determined.
Alaskans now have until November 15 to comment on the draft.