Years later, Alaska receives $56 million for salmon fishery disaster

MGN PHOTO: Salmon underwater
MGN PHOTO: Salmon underwater(KMVT)
Published: Jun. 21, 2018 at 8:24 AM AKDT
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Almost two years after Gov. Bill Walker requested federal funding to counterbalance a devastating blow to Alaska salmon, the government answered, to the tune of over $56 million in disaster relief money.

As to who will actually be on the receiving end of that money, however, is not yet known.

That disaster was the 2016 Southest Alaska Pink Salmon Fishery, which came under average of more than 4 million salmon, racking up losses of an estimated threshold of 35 to 80 percent.

Back in 2016, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said that due to the salmon tanking and a 36 percent loss in total revenue, it allowed the National Marine Fisheries Service to consider disaster relief funding.

The full amount, $56,361,332 in disaster funding, will go to the affected fishermen and stakeholders. The money is taken from a $200 million pool in the budget nine fisheries disasters declared across the country and neighboring areas partially as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

The last time Alaska got money for such disasters was back in 2014, when it took $20.8 million damaged by low Chinook salmon runs in the Yukon and other areas during 2012.

There still remains the question of who among those affected by the fishing disaster will actually get a share in the $56 million, and just how big that share will be.

Wednesday, Alaska's delegation celebrated the news of that relief payout in a news release, saying, "These dollars are vital to Alaskans and their families who were hit hard by the 2016 pink salmon fishery disaster."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Marine Fisheries Service, couldn't immediately say who would be getting funds allocated.

Barbara Blake, a Gov. Walker adviser, said in an email Thursday that NOAA and the State of Alaska will "coordinate a discussion to decide criteria method of distribution."

In NOAA's release, it stated that they intend to reach out to "eligible applicants" who were in various extents affected by the fishery disasters in Alaska.

Among those, it identified multiple groups which could see allocations, including commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, charter businesses, shore-side infrastructure, and subsistence users.