I want to take a moment to discuss the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon disaster relief distribution as there have been some recent developments.
An official request for review/appeal form and revised FAQs are now available on PSMFC’s website at: https://www.psmfc.org/fishery-disaster-programs.
The revised FAQs provide updated information about the timelines and specifics of the process moving forward for permit holders, as well as crew and processors.
Although the deadline to receive a request for review/appeal for permit holders is “postmarked” by Nov. 15, I would get on it as soon as possible if you plan on appealing your payment amount or eligibility.
As I discussed in my previous update to the Daily Mirror (Sept. 4), I have been reaching out to ADF&G, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), and our congressional delegation to make sure they are aware of several issues with how some payments were calculated. The most prevalent issues involve the way 5-year averages were calculated for those with a partial catch history and basing payments on all of a person’s limited entry permits instead of just that gear type. Essentially, the result for seiners is that if you happened to have transitioned from gillnetting to seining during the lookback period and/or started seining after 2010, you likely are slated to receive a much smaller amount than recipients who do not fall under either of those situations.
I sent a letter to PSMFC, ADF&G, and our congressional delegation, pointing out the issues and requesting that they be addressed favorably in the appeals process. The letter explains the issues in greater detail. If you would like a copy, please contact my office at 907-465-3271.
I have since spoke at length to ADF&G about these, as well as other, issues, with how payments and eligibility were determined. Fish and game recognizes that mistakes were made and is working to ensure that PSMFC is aware of them as well. It is also my understanding that, along with actual commercial fishermen, there will be a department representative on the appeals board. The main issue I see, frankly, is how much money will be available in the appeals fund. There is money already in that fund and ADF&G is looking at ways to loop additional funding from unclaimed payments back to the appeals process while still staying within the grant guidelines.
ADF&G and CFEC have offered their services in assisting people with information throughout the appeals process.
If you have questions about your address on file with CFEC or need to change that address, feel free to reach out to CFEC at 907-789-6160. If you need to confirm specific fish ticket information from 2016 or earlier, that is also available at CFEC for a nominal fee. Additionally, ADF&G can provide you with the year-by-year inputs that PSMFC used to determine your 5-year average, which will be helpful for crafting an appeal. If you would like that information or have questions that I or my staff cannot answer regarding appeals or the state’s ongoing interactions with PSMFC on these issues, I can put you in touch with the appropriate person at ADF&G.
I want to close by saying that throughout this three-year process, my staff and I frequently engaged with ADF&G, discussing the various concerns of stakeholders, as well as those we could foresee regarding how payments and eligibility would be determined. In fact, some of the issues that have arisen are ones that were specifically brought to the attention of ADF&G. For example, I was told personally when I asked about it that a fleetwide average would be blended in for those with a partial catch history. So, in other words, if you started fishing in 2014, a fleetwide average for 2012 and the previous years would be blended with your actual catch in 2014 to determine your 5-year average. This would have resulted in much more equitable payments. However, that blending of actual and fleetwide averages was never incorporated and as no one saw the final plan as it left the state, it wasn’t brought to light until people started receiving communications from PSMFC in August.
Particularly given the level of input from the stakeholders and my office, I was extremely surprised and disappointed to see that the final distribution plan resulted in large disparities in payments based on what were essentially oversights.
Since we were made aware of these issues, I have been doing everything in my power to bring them to light and ensure that appeals based on these grounds are successful. If you plan on filing an appeal, please reach out to my office at 907-465-3271. I would be happy to write a letter in support of your appeal and assist you through the process.
In the meantime, I will continue to talk to ADF&G and speak to our congressional delegation about ways to bolster the appeals fund.
Remember I work for you, please contact me anytime to discuss these or any other issues that are important to you or your family.