SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Group of lawmakers request disaster declaration for Southeast fishermen
for federal aid to offset pandemic-struck fishing season



October 04, 2020
Sunday PM

(SitNews) Sitka, Alaska - Five members of the Alaska State Legislature addressed a letter to Governor Dunleavy requesting for a disaster declaration for all eligible species of salmon in the region.

The letter is signed by representative from various communities throughout Southeast Alaska. Representatives Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Sara Hannan, Dan Ortiz, Andi Story, and Senator Jesse Kiehl, underscore in the letter the difficulties facing fishermen, including "poor returns, drops in prices, and reduced economic opportunities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic".

In the letter, the representatives state many of their constituents rely heavily on the commercial fisheries industry for their economic well-being. The purpose of the letter is to ask Governor Dunleavy to request a fisheries disaster determination from the US Secretary of Commerce for all eligible species of salmon in Southeast Alaska.

Although the 2020 fishing season has not yet concluded, the representatives wrote reports from the Southeast commercial fishing fleets indicate a dismal year for salmon returns in the region. There has also been a significant drop in the prices fishermen get from processors. This — paired with reduced economic opportunity caused by COVID-19 — has led many of our communities to request declarations of economic disaster from the state.

"Between the historically poor salmon returns and the COVID-19 related market crash, this fishing season, like so many things in the year of 2020, has been absolutely terrible," said  Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins  (D-Sitka). "I urge the Governor to declare a disaster after the season comes to a close so that those affected can receive federal aid in the most timely fashion possible."

However prices may not yet be so grim. This week Laine Welch reports in her column Fish Factor that Tradex is reporting that sockeye prices are “significantly higher than last year” and suggests that suppliers are stockpiling inventories in their freezers. Tradex predicts the same for wild chum salmon due to low catches from all producers. The same holds true for pink salmon, where big shortfalls from Russia are biting into the global supply.

For sockeye salmon, global supplier and market tracker Tradex reports that frozen fillets are in high demand and supplies are hard to source for all sizes. Primarily because of the Bristol Bay's 40.7 million salmon catch (nearly all sockeyes), with a catch this year topping 45 million statewide, Alaska is the leading producer of that popular commodity.

Quoting the letter to the governor, these five representatives are confident that with the conclusion of the season the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s evaluation of Southeast salmon fisheries will bear out the distressing accounts they have heard from their constituents. The letter encourages the governor to petition the Secretary as soon as ADF&G is able to provide the data and analysis to substantiate the request.

The letter concludes stating, the disaster declaration will start the process to allow the hardworking fishermen in their districts to get federal disaster aid. This help is vital to the communities and Alaska’s economy.




Related News:

Lower supplies of wild Pacific salmon pushing up prices By LAINE WELCH
SitNews - October 04, 2020


Source of News:

Alaska House Majority

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