State sends plan to feds to help commercial fishers

$50 million potentially

OLYMPIA — The state said Tuesday that it submitted a draft plan to federal officials for how to distribute $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief to members of Washington’s commercial seafood, shellfish and charter industries.

The CARES Act provides $300 million to states to distribute to fisheries participants with Washington and Alaska receiving the highest allocation of $50 million each.

“The pandemic had early and dramatic impacts to shellfish and commercial fishing businesses. These activities play an outsized role in our state, especially in our tribal and natural resources dependent economies,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “I am pleased that we will soon have more assistance available to help these hurting businesses recover.”

“Submitting this plan for federal review brings us one step closer to getting this funding into the hands of commercial fishing and shellfish industry members who need it most,” said Ron Warren, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish policy director. “We applaud Washington’s congressional delegation for securing this relief for members of Washington’s commercial seafood, shellfish and charter industries.”

The draft plan goes to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Fisheries for review and approval.

Under the draft plan, industry members who experienced a gross revenue loss from January through July 2020 greater than 35 percent of their 2015-2019 average would be eligible to apply for federal relief funding. Exceptions are available for industry members without a full five-year history. And applicants can choose smaller window periods within the timeframe so long as the period is at least 28 days. Washington-based commercial fishers who fish in Alaska are also eligible.

Money earned from freshwater species and retail sales are excluded. Eligible commercial fishery participants must include all their revenues regardless of whether they landed the fish.

The plan has been in development for three months, with the governor’s office working with the state 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. The governor’s office also held discussions with the 24 treaty tribes to learn about their COVID-19 impacts to subsistence, cultural and ceremonial fisheries.

Once NOAA-Fisheries reviews and approves Washington’s plan, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) will send application materials to potentially eligible businesses, which will have 45 days to apply for relief. Following the plan’s approval, information, application materials and instructions will be available on the PSMFC website at