Federal relief funding to commercial fishing, shellfish, charter and seafood sector

Eligible commercial fishing, shellfish, charter and seafood sector industry members who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can now apply with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) for assistance.

Industry members who experienced a gross revenue loss from January through July 2020 greater than 35 percent of their 2015-2019 average, are eligible to apply for federal relief funding. Washington-based commercial fishers who fish in Alaska are also eligible.

Applications are open through March 25, 2021.

Under the CARES Act, Congress provided $300 million to states to distribute to fisheries participants.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries allocated the funding among states, territories, and tribes with Washington and Alaska receiving the highest allocation of $50 million each.

Washington non-tribal commercial fishing, shellfish and charter industry members have been allocated $39 million, with $11 million allocated to members of Washington’s 24 treaty tribes.

The CARES Act funds are intended to help those who have experienced negative impacts to commercial, subsistence, cultural and ceremonial fisheries resulting directly or indirectly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Shellfish and commercial fishing has long been a vital component of Washington’s state and tribal economies and a core part of who we are – and I am so glad this funding is available to help so we can keep it that way,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had deep impacts on these industries, and this sorely needed relief will help protect our people, businesses and communities.”

“We recognize that this has been a hard year for the state’s commercial fishing, shellfish and charter industry members and applaud our state leaders and partners for helping to champion this funding,” said Ron Warren, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish policy director. “The relief is both warranted and needed.”

The Washington State Governor’s Office developed a plan for distributing this funding with assistance from the Washington departments of Fish and Wildlife, Agricultural, Commerce, and the Washington Office of Financial Management. State officials met virtually with commercial fishers, shellfish growers and seafood processors to better understand the consequences of COVID-19 on the industries, coordinating with fisheries managers in neighboring West Coast states as well. The Governor’s Office further convened discussions with the 24 treaty tribes to learn about their COVID-19 impacts to commercial, subsistence, cultural and ceremonial fisheries.

WDFW is inviting those who may qualify to join a virtual public meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 23, to learn more about the federal relief funding.

Details of the meeting will be available on WDFW’s website: wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/commercial/federal-disaster-assistance/cares-act.

More information, full eligibility details and application materials and instructions are available on the PSFMC’s website at: psmfc.org/cares-act-the-coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-act.

A second round of assistance is expected to cover losses incurred between August and December 31, 2020, made possible by another $300 million that Congress approved in December.

NOAA Fisheries has not yet announced how this second round of funding will be divided between the state, territories, and tribes.

WDFW is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.