The process to get relief payments into the hands of fishermen and communities hurt by the 2018 Gulf of Alaska cod crash is delayed a bit due to upheavals stemming from the coronavirus.

In late February the U.S. Secretary of Commerce cut loose $24,416,440 for affected stakeholders.

Then, on March 20 Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang proposed a written timeline for developing a distribution plan and called for input from communities and fishing groups.

A draft of the initial distribution plan was intended to gather stakeholder comments in April, be revised in May and go out for a second round of public input in June and July. But that plan was derailed for a bit by Covid.

Now, the state is “aiming” to get the draft distribution plan out for the first round of stakeholder and public comments by the end of June, according to Rick Green, assistant to the ADF&G commissioner.

There will be a month for comments, Green said, and that first round will be revised and sent out for more input, likely in late August. That will be reviewed and finalized and sent off to NOAA Fisheries.

The plan will hopefully be approved in September.

Fish and Game will then work with Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to get the distribution done as quickly as possible.

The disaster funds can be used to assist fishing communities affected by the cod crash by getting it into the hands of fishermen, subsistence users, and shore-side businesses and infrastructure.

Money also can be used for research activities to improve the fishing ecosystem and environment.

Previous Alaska fishery disaster distribution plans have provided funds for two general categories: research and direct payments to affected fishery participants.