Credit:  National Fisherman

How can you be sure your fishing vessel is clean of the coronavirus? Where can you find out about relief funds that are newly available for fishermen?

United Fishermen of Alaska’s website has the answers.

What we were going for is one stop shopping  for Covid information for our commercial fishermen.” 

Frances Leach is UFA executive director. Its website provides updates and quick links to of United Fishermen of Alaska which has the most comprehensive website for all things related to COVID-19.

“We have all the mandates the state has put in place, we have all the UFA updates that we send out on a weekly basis – we have helpful documents to download, we have a tab for onboard procedures telling what fishermen will need to do to have a season. We have a tab for economic relief and links to other helpful resources and websites.”

There’s an onboard checklist for fishing vessels and tenders … protocols for crews coming and going… and for the first time, fishermen can apply for unemployment benefits –

“Deckhands who work under 1099s previously were not eligible for unemployment. Now they have changed that and if you are working under a 1099 you are eligible for unemployment and you can apply under the state.”  

Fishermen also can apply for a Paycheck Protection Program and for loans through the Small Business Administration.

Along with state benefits, fishermen also get a $300 million chunk through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – those funds have yet to be cut loose while another package also is in the works.

Both include numerous benefits for fishermen, considered “essential” as U.S. food producers.

Leach says UFA COVID-19 updates are for the benefit of all Alaska fishermen.

“We have been really working for all commercial fishermen during this crisis, not just members of UFA. We are making sure that our fishermen have all the information they need.”  

United Fishermen of Alaska is the nation’s largest commercial fishing trade group with 35 member organizations. Leach says a top priority today is protecting communities while the fleets go fishing.

“Right now we are fully aware that communities are very concerned about allowing commercial fisheries to happen in their regions. And since day one, that has been a major priority of ours.  Before we thought ‘how can we get out and fish,’ our first priority was ‘how can we protect these communities while still having a successful fishery. That has been our effort since day one. To put protocols in place to protect communities and fishermen so that we are not continuing to spread this virus and put undue burdens on communities.”