Alaska Uses Virus Relief Funds to Relieve Fishing Industry

by Quentin Blount
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The Alaska Department of Fish and Game released a plan to split $50 million in federal coronavirus relief funding for fishing industry workers affected by the pandemic.

According to CoastAlaska, the proposed funding will be split between three primary groups. Charter guides, the commercial fleet and seafood processors will each receive roughly 32 percent each.

The state’s draft proposal also sets aside portions of the funds for subsistence and aquaculture at 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

“All sectors have been impacted by the pandemic, whether it be reduced wholesale prices and reduction in demand due to economic shutdown or sharp declines in tourism due to travel restrictions,” Fish and Game said in a statement.

The fishing industry incurred millions in coronavirus expenses

For example, seafood processors in Alaska are paying tens of millions to cover costs from the coronavirus pandemic.

Intrafish Media provides an in-depth look at how costs for providing protective gear such can add up so quickly. Masks, gloves, testing thermometers, and extra staff to control sanitation demands between work shifts all cost money.

For example, at Bristol Bay, around 13,000 workers come to work from outside Alaska. They come to work on fishing boats and in 13 plants of different sizes. Figures show that all major processors combined spent $30 to $40 million on coronavirus-related costs during June and July.

Alaska processors also had to cover costs like putting up employees in 14-day quarantine sites, as required by the state. That cost alone was an estimated $3,500 per worker.

“In the past several months, Alaska seafood processors have spent tens of millions of dollars implementing proactive health and safety protocols to ensure we are minimizing risks to Alaska communities, protecting our seasonal and resident workforce, and maintaining operations,” said Silver Bay Seafoods CEO Cora Campbell at a virtual U.S. Senate committee hearing in July.

Applicants applying for Alaska’s relief funding will have to document their losses over the course of the pandemic. The Department of Fish and Game will be accepting written comments on the plan from the public until Oct. 19.

Industry groups representing seafood processors say they are studying the plan and would reserve comment until a later date.

Outsider.com