Two Alaska fisheries have been designated as disasters making them eligible for federal aid.
The US Commerce Department announced this week that the 2018 Gulf of Alaska cod crash and the sockeye fishery failure at Chignik are included in $165 million in disaster relief funds. The money also provides for fisheries impacts in six other states between the years 2017 and 2019.
For Alaska, the 2018 salmon fishery at Chignik, once the state’s most exclusive sockeye salmon fishery, produced just 128 fish.
That same year fishermen faced the lowest numbers ever for Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska.
Surveys showed a 72 percent decline in cod stocks due to the disappearance of five and six year old pulses of fish. Biologist blamed the wipe out on warm water that moved into the Gulf starting in 2014.
Steve Barbeaux is with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
“We had what the oceanographers and the news media have been calling the blob, which is this warm water that was sitting in the Gulf for those three years, and it was different than other years in that it went really deep, but it also lasted throughout the winter. And so what can happen is you can deplete the food source pretty rapidly when the entire ecosystem is ramped up in those warm temperatures.”
Gulf cod catches in 2018 dropped by 80 percent to less than 40 million pounds in state and federal waters combined.
At Kodiak, where 40 percent of the Gulf cod crosses the docks, the value to fishermen decreased from $48 million to under $10million, based on five year averages.
P-cod typically accounts for over 20 percent of Alaska’s total groundfish catch..
It’s not known yet how much of the funds will be earmarked for Alaska. Congress will make that determination in coming months and eligible fishermen and communities can then apply.
Meanwhile, Alaska permit holders can apply now through October 31 for $32 million in disaster funds for the 2016 pink salmon bust.