Fishermen and skilled seafood processors and traders in Hawaii who have lost business due to the COVID-19 pandemic can now claim a portion of the $ 3.6 million in federal CARES money allocated to the State.
Commercial fishing in Hawaii, like most industries in the state, struggled during the coronavirus pandemic as restaurants and businesses closed for long periods while tourism was at a standstill, reducing the quantity of fish sold by fishermen.
Last year, approximately $ 4.3 million was allocated to Hawaii in the first of two rounds of CARES Act funding for the nation’s fisheries. The $ 3.6 million allocated this year is part of a second round of funding and will be distributed by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Applicants can apply for assistance until September 30. They must have suffered a loss of income of more than 35% in a four-week period during the pandemic, compared to a five-year average from 2015 to 2019.
Like the first relief round, funding has been divided into sectors and is based on their respective economic values, according to a spending plan designed by the State Department of Lands and Natural Resources and its Aquatic Resources Division with other stakeholders. .
Most of the aid – about $ 2.1 million – goes to the Hawaii longline fishery, which is valued at around $ 100 million annually.
The fishery lost about $ 35 million in 2020 from its five-year average from 2015 to 2019. Bigeye and yellowfin are the most frequently caught species in the fishery, and fishermen caught and sold less than both. in 2020 compared to 2019.
Eric Kingma, executive director of the Hawaii Longline Association, said about 90% of the longline fleet would be eligible for federal aid. The fishery has rebounded this year due to a lack of imported ahi and high demand and relatively low catch for it, he added.
“Last year was really tough. This year has been better, but the volumes (of fish) that the longliners were bringing in weren’t really that high either, ”Kingma said. “I think many ships are still recovering from the difficult year of last year.”
Seafood processors and traders received the second largest share of federal assistance at $ 579,000, while the charter fishery received $ 418,000; commercial non-longline fishery, $ 376,000; and subsistence and other fishing, including aquarium fishers and residents with out-of-state fishing businesses, $ 100,000.
There are nearly 3,000 licensed commercial non-longline fishermen in Hawaii who reported landings from 2015 to 2019, although only active fishermen who averaged fish sales of at least $ 7,000 per year during this period are eligible for assistance.
This represents around 450 to 500 of the most “serious” non-longline fishermen, according to David Sakoda, program director of the Aquatic Resources Division, who added that commercial non-longline fishing appears to have plummeted during COVID-19 even though the fishing effort may have increased.
“There have been fewer licenses issued or renewed, so we think less people are fishing commercially… and then more people are fishing but for subsistence or sharing,” he said.
Non-commercial fishing in Hawaii appears to have flourished during at least part of the pandemic.
There are only about 140 licensed longline fishermen and about 190 fishing charter companies in Hawaii, based on the 2019 numbers used in the spending plan.
Sakoda said revenues for fishing charter companies fell to practically zero for an entire year when tourism in Hawaii stopped before picking up significantly since the spring.
“There was a period where there was a 100% shutdown, but from March or April it started to pick up. And since May, it’s at 100% full capacity for the most part, ”he said.
The help applicants will receive depends on their loss of earnings claims and the total claims in their respective sectors.
Applications can be completed online at the PSMFC website at psmfc.org.