Fish Radio

Pink salmon relief pushed by Rep. Stutes

August 30, 2016

Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak is Chair of the House Fisheries Committee

Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak is Chair of the House Fisheries Committee

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch — A push for help from Alaska’s pink salmon bust. More after this –
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Wheels are already turning to provide some relief for Alaskans clobbered by the biggest pink salmon bust in decades.

My first goal is to declare the pink salmon component a disaster. 

Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak officially requested that the Walker Administration pursue a disaster declaration last week. The state Commerce Department is already getting the wheels in motion.

They are on it. Plan to move forward with it. They are realizing this is a disaster not just for Kodiak but for a lot of communities around the state. And by declaring it a disaster it allows   the avenue for financial aid  to become available.  

Pinks are Alaska’s highest volume salmon fishery and hundreds of fishermen depend on the fish to boost   paychecks. So far the statewide harvest has reached just 36 million humpies – that compares to a catch of 190 million pinks last summer.   Stutes points out that the pink salmon impacts go far beyond the fishermen.

It doesn’t just affect the fishermen – which is why if we get it declared a disaster – it’s cannery workers, processors, businesses in the community. It’s a trickledown effect. That’s why it’s a disaster.  

A second relief measure would provide ‘blanket forgiveness’ on state loan payments for this year. Hurt parties already can already call the Division of Investments to exercise that option. (1-800-478-LOAN(5626)

 There is an avenue available that is associated with those loans. And you can apply to have a waver on your loan. That money is not forgiven – it just goes on the end of the loan. So what I am asking for is blanket forgiveness for those loans for this year.  

Stutes, who also represents Cordova, Yakutat and six other coastal communities, has been inundated with fearful calls from her constituents.

How am I going to make my mortgage payment, how am I going to work because they are not  eligible for unemployment  because still employed. There’s just no work.   

 It’s not the first time Alaskans have sought help from a failed salmon fishery. A disaster was declared in 2012 on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers and in Cook Inlet due to low Chinook salmon returns for that season and in previous years.

Representative Stutes says her job now is to keep the pink salmon wheels  in motion. She is meeting with the governor and lt. governor on Tuesday.

All I know is my thumb is on it and I’m a squeaky wheel. My job is to make sure it keeps moving.  

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, an Alaska corporation proudly supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and the Alaskans who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture.    In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.