Alaska pink salmon                    Credit:  National Fisherman


It’s been three years but Alaska pink salmon fishermen are still awaiting federal relief funds for the disastrous 2016 season which was the worst in 40 years.

NOAA Fisheries missed a sign off deadline of June 1 and now says the funds will be released to the Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission on the first of July.

“However, as you might imagine, we’re not holding our breath because of the feds current track record in adhering to their own timelines.”

Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak has been watchdogging the glacial relief effort.

At the request of former Governor Bill Walker in late 2016, Congress approved $56 million for Alaska fishermen, processors and communities hurt by the fishery failure.  The US Commerce Secretary ok’d the disaster funds in January 2017 for three Alaska regions: Kodiak, Prince William Sound and Lower Cook Inlet and the money was eventually appropriated by Congress.

Last August, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and NOAA developed a draft spending plan for the relief funds in four categories:   $2.43 million for coastal communities that would have gotten 1.5 percent of the landed value of the foregone pink catch; $4.18 million was set for research on pinks.

Processors would get $17.7 million for lost wages as a result of the pink salmon bust.

Alaska fishermen would get the biggest chunk at $32 million. It would be distributed using a calculation to restore lost dockside value equal to 82.5 percent of their five even year averages. Representative Stutes:

“It affects all the cannery workers all the processors, all the businesses in the community. This is a trickle down effect.”

 As for the July 1 promise, Stutes says the only thing that’s clear is a lack of follow through with federal timelines.

She encourages Alaskans to contact their representatives in Congress to help move the pink salmon relief funds forward.  Stutes said she also will continue to keep up the pressure –

“They know that I’m a squeaky wheel and that is going to be my job, to keep this moving in a forward direction.”