The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, announced a disaster declaration for the 2019 Norton Sound red king crab season.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo shared her determination of the disaster on June 29th.

This declaration provides an avenue for NOAA to allocate funds to those whose businesses were hurt by the low return of king crab in 2019, the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation’s Vice President and Quota and Acquisitions Manager Simon Kinneen said.

“In essence, [this declaration means] potentially payments to fishermen for lost revenues in the fishery. But there’s also funds that can go to other things, such as affected processors or potentially even to research to help understand what’s going on with this stock in the first place,” said Kinneen.

By the end of 2019’s season, fishers caught around 78,000 pounds of red king crab, even though the Alaska Department of Fish and Game set the guideline harvest level at 150,000.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy formally requested the disaster declaration in March of 2020. Now that Raimondo has approved the request, Congress can appropriate funds for disaster relief.

“And then once those funds are appropriated, that will then go to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to develop a spend plan. So they’ll take a look at the funds that are available, and then come up with a way to divide that between affected individuals,” explained Kinneen.

About $12 million in funding is left from the 2019 Fiscal Year disaster appropriation of $65 million, according to Katherine Brogan, Acting Public Affairs Director for NOAA Fisheries. While a date is not set for when these funds will be available, NOAA Fisheries will “work with affected states to develop a spend plan based on high priority needs on the affected community. The process for affected fishermen to apply for those funds will depend on the specific procedures the state outlines in the approved spend plan,” said Brogan.

Raimondo also made disaster declarations for fisheries in New York and Washington. Disaster declarations are still pending for 2020’s Kuskokwim and Norton Sound salmon fisheries.

Image at top: Crab pots sit empty in Nome’s small boat harbor during the summer season. Photo from NSEDC’s website, via public domain.