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Alaska salmon fishermen give guidelines on how Covid relief funds can best help them

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 15:20 (GMT + 9)

A rapid response by nearly 800 Alaska fishermen will provide a guideline for giving them a hand up as the coronavirus swamps their operations.

An online survey from April 14-May 3 by Juneau-based nonprofit SalmonState asked fishermen about their primary concerns both before the Covid outbreak and in the midst of the pandemic in April. It also asked what elected officials at local, state and federal levels can do to help them directly.

Over half of the 817 responses came in over four days, said Tyson Fick, Salmon State communications adviser.

“Clearly, people were interested to have their stories heard and to weigh in. In several ways we feel like we had a very broad swath of regions and gear types and   fishermen,” he said.

A total of 779 responses (95%) were accepted of which 50% were Alaska residents, 28% were from the Lower 48, and 22% did not provide resident information.

Nearly 95% said they participate in a salmon fishery, with the majority fishing for both salmon and a mix of nearly all other species commercially harvested in Alaska.

Some takeaways:

Prior to Covid, the top three concerns among fishermen were fish prices (65%), the Pebble Mine (60%), and climate change (53%).

After Covid hit, concerns shifted to loss of income (75%), preventing the spread in coastal communities (69%), and bad policy decisions being made while fishermen are distracted (58%).

Fishermen are combatting the negative impacts by using a combination of strategies while doing more work with less time and resources. Over half said they would look for non-fishing related work, 27% said they would fish a longer season, and 26% plan to fish with fewer crew. Nearly a quarter expect to venture into direct marketing or increase dock sales. Just over 4% said they would sell their fishing businesses.

By far, affected fishermen said giving them direct payments from emergency relief funds would be the biggest help (82.73%). The second and third most popular options were favorable debt consolidation opportunities (33.25%) and debt forgiveness (28.61%).

Fishermen provided thoughtful responses when asked about actions of policy makers that revealed several themes.

At both the congressional and state levels, stopping the Pebble Mine was the most frequent request, at 24% and 18%, respectively; keeping fisheries open also was a top issue.

For Governor Dunleavy and the Alaska legislature, respondents said they should focus on Covid-related health and safety support for fishermen and provide help with marketing.(continue...)

Author: Laine Welch / Alaska Fish Radio | Read full article here

[email protected]
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