Alaska Using $50M in Virus Relief for Ailing Fishing Industry

The state of Alaska released a plan to divide $50 million in federal coronavirus relief funding payments among fishing industry workers affected by the pandemic.

The state Department of Fish and Game proposed a split between charter guides, the commercial fleet and seafood processors of 32% each in a draft proposal released Monday, CoastAlaska reported.

Federal guidance suggests the state set aside more than half of its relief funds for processors, about a third for commercial fishermen and 5% for sport fishing guides and lodges.

The state also proposed setting aside portions of the funds for subsistence and aquaculture at 3% and 1% respectively. The two groups were not included in the federal guidance.

Relief applicants will be required to document significant losses over the course of the pandemic compared to previous years.

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

The agency is accepting written comments on the plan from the public until Oct. 19.

The increases for charter guides, subsistence fishermen and aquaculture have come largely at the expense of seafood processors, which command greater revenue but have largely remained operational due to exemptions to travel restrictions for the essential workforce.

Processing plants have reported spending millions of dollars to keep the facilities free of the coronavirus.

Industry groups representing processors and sport fishing guides said they are studying the plan and would reserve comment until a later date.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.