‘This relief package will support America’s fishermen and our seafood sector’s recovery,’ said US Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, announcing allocation of $300 million in fisheries assistance funding provided by Sec. 12005 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also called the CARES Act, to states, Tribes, and territories with coastal and marine fishery participants who have been negatively affected by COVID–19.
As a next step, NOAA Fisheries will use these allocations to make awards to partners: the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. They will disburse the funds to address direct or indirect fishery-related losses as well as subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial impacts related to COVID-19.
‘We are going to rely primarily on our partners at the interstate marine fishery commissions during the award process because they have a demonstrated track record of disbursing funds provided to them quickly and effectively,’ said Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries.
The commissions then will work with each state, Tribe, and territory to develop spend plans consistent with the CARES Act and NOAA’s guidance. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will submit award applications and spend plans to the agency directly.
All spend plans must describe the main categories for funding, including direct payments, fishery-related infrastructure, and fishery-related education that address direct and indirect COVID-19 impacts to commercial fishermen, charter businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, subsistence/cultural/ceremonial users, processors, and other fishery-related businesses.
Once a spend plan has been approved by NOAA, the agency anticipates that the three Commissions will review applications and process payments to eligible fishery participants on behalf of the states and territories. The states will have the option to process payments themselves.
Fishery participants eligible for funding include Tribes, commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fishery-related businesses. They should work with their state marine fisheries management agencies, territories, or Tribe to understand the process for applying for these funds.
Also of note, for the purposes of Sec. 12005 funding, businesses farther down the supply chain – including vessel repair businesses, restaurants, or seafood retailers – are not considered ‘fishery-related businesses’.