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Fishery disaster fund plan moving forward

Posted: August 16, 2014 - 7:45pm

Cook Inlet and Yukon River commercial fishermen could receive direct payments as part of the 2012 fishery disaster relief aid this fall.

According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration award notice, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission is set to receive $7.8 million for direct payments to commercial fishermen in the Yukon River and Cook Inlet regions. That money is intended to compensate them — at least partially — for losses from the 2012 salmon fisheries, which received a federal disaster declaration.

Pacific States Executive Director Randy Fisher said Aug. 15 that his organization had not yet been notified that they received the grant to make the direct payments, and that they were in the final stages of determining the criteria for receiving payments.

Once the criteria are finalized and the grant is received, Pacific States will send out applications to fishermen. Those will likely be due in mid-September, and payments within a few days of Pacific States receiving the completed applications.

Fisher said the applications will likely go to permit owners who fished during the disaster, but that the exact criteria — and the size of each payment — are still being determined.

NMFS spokeswoman Julie Speegle said an announcement on the fishery disaster fund payments was expected during the week of August 18, and could not offer further information as of Aug. 15. Congress appropriated $20.8 million in aid for the 2012 disaster.

The Association of Village Council Presidents and the State of Alaska requested fishery disaster status for the poor king salmon runs on Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and in Cook Inlet in 2012, although the Yukon designation also applied to 2010 and 2011, and the Kuskokwim designation also applied to 2011.

When the disaster declaration was being made, Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development Commissioner Susan Bell gave a letter to the federal government with a breakdown of the impacts on affected fisheries.

According to that information, commercial fishery permit holders lost about $16.8 million in direct ex-vessel revenue in the years included in the disaster designation.

Pacific States, which is based in Portland, Ore., was responsible for distributing the $5 million appropriation for the 2009 Yukon disaster.

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