By Yereth Rosen
Alaska Beacon 

Fishery disasters declared for several poor or closed Alaska crab and salmon harvests


December 22, 2022

Photo courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Bering Sea snow crab support an iconic Alaska seafood harvest, but a crash in population since 2018 has triggered the first-ever closure of the fishery.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Friday approved disaster declarations for several distressed fisheries, including the recently canceled Bering Sea snow crab and Bristol Bay red crab harvests.

The declarations are for poor or closed Alaska harvests going back to 2020. They cover failures in the crab fisheries for this season and last season, the closure of king crab fishing in Norton Sound in 2020 and 2021, the collapse of chum and coho harvests in the Kuskokwim River area, the poor salmon returns in the Chignik area in 2021, and low returns of pink and coho salmon the Copper River and Prince William Sound areas in 2020.

The list of disaster declarations approved on Friday also included some Washington state salmon fisheries going back to 2019.

"America's fisheries are a critical part of our national economy and directly impact our local communities when disasters occur," Raimondo said in a statement. "These determinations are a way to assist those fishing communities with financial relief to mitigate impacts, restore fisheries and help prevent future disasters."

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy had requested the disaster declarations, which are authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act also authorizes financial aid payments for declared fishery disasters.

The disaster declarations will allow for appropriations of federal funding to assist affected fishermen, crew members and communities and to help in scientific research, said a joint statement released by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Mary Peltola, Alaska's three-member Congressional delegation.

"This is an important first step and I will continue to work with Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan to secure additional funding needed to provide relief to the Alaskan fishing communities impacted by poor returns and closed fisheries while stocks have a chance to recover," Peltola said in the statement.

No proposed aid totals were available to address the newly declared fishery disasters. Some prior disaster declarations, issued in 2019 and 2020, resulted in millions of dollars of assistance for Alaska fishermen, communities and others. Aid paid out for a poor 2018 sockeye salmon harvest in the Chignik area totaled over $10.3 million, and aid paid for ultra-low 2019 returns of red king crab totaled over $1.4 million, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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