Alaska in Brief

Dunleavy, Peltola seek federal relief after failure of Alaska crab fisheries

By: - October 26, 2022 5:41 pm
Crab pots sit in Unalaska in 2005. (Photo by Carla Stanley/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Crab pots sit in Unalaska in 2005. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration and U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola has requested $250 million in relief funding after the failure of this year’s Bering Sea snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab fisheries. (Photo by Carla Stanley/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration and U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola has requested $250 million in relief funding after the failure of this year’s Bering Sea snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab fisheries.

Last week, Peltola asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the chair of the House Appropriations Committee to include relief funding for crab fishermen and the crabbing industry in Congress’ year-end appropriation bill.

Disaster relief funding could be available if Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo declares a fisheries disaster, and a day after Peltola’s request, Dunleavy formally requested that Raimondo declare a disaster.

A spokesperson for Dunleavy’s office said the timing of the two requests was not coordinated.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game canceled the crab fisheries earlier this month, citing the low numbers of crab available to catch. This is the second year in a row without a fall Bristol Bay red king crab harvest, and it is the first winter without a snow crab harvest.

Dunleavy’s letter estimates the total lost fisheries revenue will be more than $287 million, and Peltola’s letter said the economic effects will be spread throughout western Alaska.

“Disaster funding is certainly not a long-term alternative to a productive fishery and sustainable harvest, but it is a crucial way to support people, communities and their jobs while we simultaneously support rebuilding the crab stocks,” her letter said. 

Fishery disaster declarations have become increasingly common as climate change affects fisheries here. In January, Raimondo issued eight disaster declarations covering Alaska fisheries between 2018 and 2021. 

Before last week’s request, Dunleavy had already asked for five fishery disaster declarations this year, according to a tally kept by the National Marine Fisheries Service. All five are still pending approval.

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James Brooks
James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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