450 inlet fishermen receive aid

More than 1,000 Alaska fishermen will share in $7.5 million worth of payments to mitigate the 2012 fisheries disaster in Cook Inlet and on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission Executive Director Randy Fisher said the checks were mailed Oct. 17.

In Cook Inlet, 454 checks were mailed — 481 eligible fishermen received applications for the payments. Another 330 checks were sent to Kuskokwim fishermen, out of 471 initially expected to be eligible, and 564 out of 599 eligible Yukon fishermen received payments.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich both praised the payments.

“This initial assistance targets those most directly affected, the commercial fishermen whose fisheries were closed in the Yukon, Kuskokwim and Cook Inlet to allow the chinook to get to the spawning grounds,” Begich said in a formal statement. “This assistance is a long time coming but should help compensate fishermen for their past financial losses suffered to ensure the long term survival of the king salmon.”

“Hundreds of Alaskans are finally going to be given some welcome resources to give them a hand after some very tough years,” Murkowski said in a formal statement. “Even if it didn’t make the cable TV networks, our communities were hurt just as New Jersey was by Hurricane Sandy by these ‘fish droughts.’”

A grant application to use the remainder of the funding — Congress appropriated about $20.8 million total — is currently being reviewed in Washington, D.C.

Stakeholders have said previously that the spending plans they helped develop will be used for research, aid to small businesses and the recreational sector, outreach and education and other projects.

Congress appropriated the funds earlier this year in response to the disaster declaration made for poor king runs on the Yukon River in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the Kuskokwim River in 2011 and 2012 and for Cook Inlet’s 2012 salmon fisheries.

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