Washington submits draft plan to distribute Federal relief funding

Washington State announced on December 8 that it has submitted a draft plan for how to distribute $50 million in Federal relief funding to members of Washington’s commercial seafood, shellfish and charter industries to NOAA Fisheries for review and approval.

Under Section 12005 of the CARES Act, Congress provided $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.” 

This step follows a three-month effort, led by the Governor’s Office, to develop the plan 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 also convened discussions with the 24 treaty tribes to learn about their COVID-19 impacts to subsistence, cultural and ceremonial fisheries.

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). 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.

More information and full eligibility details are available here.

Once NOAA Fisheries reviews and approves the 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

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