Fish disaster funds on hold until agreement reached

Alaska is set to receive $20.8 million for the 2012 salmon fisheries disasters, but how the money will be used is still being decided.

First, the state of Alaska and the Association of Village Council Presidents, or AVCP, must work on how to split the funds between Cook Inlet and Yukon-Kuskokwim stakeholders, said Art Nelson, policy and outreach director for the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.

Nelson said that the state and AVCP are considered the disaster “requestors” so National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, is working with those two entities to figure out the split. If they don’t come up with something, the agency could make a decision on its own.

AVCP and the state requested fishery disaster status for the poor king salmon runs on Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and in Cook Inlet in 2012, although the Yukon designation also applied to 2010 and 2011, and the Kuskokwim designation also applied to 2011.

When the disaster declaration was being made, Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development Commissioner Susan Bell provided a letter to the federal government with a breakdown of the impacts.

According to that information, commercial fishery permit holders lost about $16.8 million in direct ex-vessel revenue in the years included in the designation.

Once there’s a split between regions, discussions will turn to how to use the money.

Congress appropriated the money, and NMFS will work with interested parties and Alaska’s congressional delegation to decide who will administer the funds and develop a spending plan.

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