Over a dozen Alaskan fisheries receive disaster designations from U.S. Department of Commerce

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce approved disaster designations for over a dozen fisheries in Alaska late last week. Salmon fisheries from the Yukon River to Prince William Sound and the Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab fishery were cited in the department’s list – so is the Gulf of Alaska’s cod fishery for 2020.  

The last time the Gulf of Alaska’s cod fishery was given disaster status was back in 2018. The federal cod fishery was also closed in 2020, and the state’s fishery stock was only a fraction of years past. 

“2017 in Kodiak, the cod quota was 12.2 million pounds,” said Nat Nichols, a Kodiak-based area management biologist for Fish and Game. 

By 2020, the state cod quota had dropped to just 1.5 million pounds – that’s 8 times less than 2017. 

Most of the designations in the Department of Commerce’s latest list of fishery disasters are for the year 2020, with several going back as far as 2018 and one – the Yukon River salmon fishery – as recently as 2021. 

Karla Bush is the extended jurisdiction program manager with Fish and Game. She says it’s unusual to see so many fishery disaster declarations in such a short time span. 

“And I think that was in response just to some of the unprecedented high temperatures that we saw both in the Gulf of Alaska and in the Bering Sea from about 2016/17 to 2018,” said Bush. “There were just several years in a row, not the exact same years in the Gulf versus the Bering Sea … high temperatures can affect different life stages of these animals.

Once it’s approved, it’s up to Congress to decide if fisheries are eligible for disaster funding – and that can take time. Bush noted that funding for 2018’s cod fishery disaster designation in the Gulf of Alaska has just started going out to skippers and crew. 

The latest approved disasters are for the following fisheries:

  • 2018 Upper Cook Inlet east side set net
  • 2018 Copper River Chinook and sockeye salmon
  • 2019 Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab
  • 2020 Prince William Sound salmon fisheries
  • 2020 Copper River Chinook, sockeye, and chum salmon fisheries
  • 2020 Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab
  • 2020 Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska
  • 2020 Alaska Norton Sound salmon
  • 2020 Yukon River salmon
  • 2020 Chignik salmon
  • 2020 Kuskokwim River salmon
  • 2020 Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries
  • 2020 Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries
  • 2021 Yukon River salmon fishery

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