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The final state-by-state allotment of $300 million in CARES Act funding for fishing communities has been announced, with state marine fisheries agencies and the commissions tasked with working with their fishermen.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  May 8, 2020
With "social distancing" requirements shuttering the for-hire fishing community since late March, business owners are anxious to see if $300 million in federal fisheries assistance will offer any type of safety net for the 2020 season.

On May 7, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the allocation of $300 million in fisheries assistance funding by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) for coastal and marine fishery participants negatively affected by the COVID–19 crisis. “This relief package will support America’s fishermen and our seafood sector’s recovery,” Ross said at www.fisheries.noaa.gov.

“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,” added Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has been tasked with ultimately working with individual states to develop “spend plans” consistent with the CARES Act under NOAA’s guidance.

According to NOAA Fisheries, all plans submitted 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 approved by NOAA, the agency anticipates that the ASMFC and the other interstate marine fishery commissions will review applications and process payments to eligible fishery participants on behalf of the states and territories, with states ultimately having the option to process payments themselves.

Those eligible for fisheries funding include commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fishery-related businesses. According to NOAA Fisheries, the term “fishery-related business” is limited to commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and dealers. However, while the federal agency said it “generally does not expect bait and tackle operations” to be eligible for funding through the CARES Act, the agency said individual states will have the discretion to determine how they ultimately identify eligible fishery participants, consistent with the requirements of the CARES Act.

According to NOAA Fisheries, coastal states in The Fisherman Magazine’s readership region and their allocation amounts (and national rankings in terms of funding) are as follows:

(3) Massachusetts - $28,004,176
(5) Maine - $20,308,513
(9) New Jersey - $11,337,797
(11) New York - $6,750,276
(16) Maryland - $4,125,118
(17) Pennsylvania - $3,368,086
(19) Rhode Island - $3,294,234
(20) New Hampshire - $2,732,492
(23) Connecticut - $1,835,424
(26) Delaware - $1,000,000

According to NOAA Fisheries, members of the recreational fishing industry who are eligible for federal funding through the CARES Act will ultimately work with their individual state marine fisheries management agencies to understand the process for applying for these funds.

See full story from NOAA Fisheries.