COVID-19 Update for Fishing Community
The COVID-19 related financial assistance information below is provided to help fishermen, fishing communities and seafood businesses that may be experiencing negative impacts from the pandemic and related government actions.
Fishery participants are urged to notify the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of their impacts by sending a message to email@example.com.
(Click on the links below to learn more)
CARES Act and Other Fishing Assistance Related to COVID-19
On March 29, 2021, Secretary of Commerce announced allocation of an additional $255 Million in fisheries assistance funding. The funding was provided by the December 21, 2020 – Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The funding will support activities previously authorized under Sec. 12005 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). It will be allocated to states and territories with coastal and marine fishery participants who have been negatively affected by COVID-19. The funding will be distributed under the existing processes establish under the CARES Act through the interstate marine fisheries commissions. The commissions then will work with each state and territory to revise their prior spend plans to be consistent with the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the CARES Act, and NOAA’s guidance. All spend plans must describe the main categories for funding, including direct payments, fishery-related infrastructure, and fishery-related education. The funding will address direct and indirect COVID-19 impacts to eligible fishery participants, including:
- Commercial fishermen
- Charter businesses
- Qualified aquaculture operations
- Subsistence, cultural, and ceremonial users
- Other fishery-related businesses
Similar to the first round of CARES Act funding, once a spend plan has been approved by NOAA, the agency anticipates that the three commissions will review applications. They will then process payments to eligible fishery participants on behalf of the states and territories, though states will have the option to process payments themselves.
Eligible fishery participants should work with their state or territory’s marine fisheries management agencies to understand the process for applying for these funds.
For the purposes of this funding, businesses farther down the supply chain—including vessel repair businesses, restaurants, or seafood retailers—are not considered “fishery-related businesses.”
In addition to these funds, fishery participants may also be eligible for assistance from Small Business Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture COVID programs.
Summary of Allocations*:
|Allocation of Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 Funding|
|State or Territory||State or Territory|
|New Jersey||$9,567,888||South Carolina||$3,000,000|
|New York||$5,696,511||Puerto Rico||$3,000,000|
* Final award amounts will be different due to Hollings and other assessments.
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act which is a $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 relief package. It provides $4 billion nationally to the USDA to buy food, including seafood, and give processors, including seafood processors, funding to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
On December 21, 2020, Congress passed a new $2.3 Trillion spending bill call the Consolidation Appropriations Act, 2021. It included a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. It provided $13 billion nationally to support agriculture, fisheries, and rural communities, including: $9.7 billion for assistance to farmers and ranchers, including specialty crops, and floriculture; $1.5 billion to purchase food, agricultural products, and seafood for individuals in need; and $300 million for assistance to commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries.
On March 27,2020, the House passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (HR 748). It included $300 million in funding for fisheries and aquaculture. Section 12005 of the CARES Act stipulates that funds are authorized to aid tribal, subsistence, commercial and charter fishery participants affected by the novel coronavirus. This section of the bill is aimed at supporting independent operators who are not otherwise covered by agriculture disaster assistance programs. To be eligible for relief, participants must have “revenue losses greater than 35 percent as compared to the prior five-year average revenue, or any negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries.” Funds may be awarded on a rolling basis “and within a fishing season to ensure rapid delivery of funds,” which will remain available until Sept. 30, 2021.
In addition to Section 12005, the bill provides $4 billion to cargo carriers, which help the seafood industry in moving product; $1,200 in relief for Americans with an income below $75,000 per year; adds $600/week to unemployment benefits for four months; gives $100 billion to hospitals and health providers and increases Medicare reimbursements for treating the coronavirus; gives $750 million to food banks, to Puerto Rico and the other territories for food assistance, and to programs for food distribution on American Indian reservations; makes $500 billion of loans or investments to businesses, states and municipalities, and $32 billion in grants to the airline industry; provides mortgage relief; and delays student loan payments. A detailed analysis is available on the Saving Seafood website.
Section 12005. Assistance to fishery participants
In General: The Secretary of Commerce is authorized to provide assistance to Tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID–19), which may include direct relief payments.
Fishery participants: For the purposes of this section, fishery participants include Tribes, persons, fishing communities, aquaculture businesses not otherwise eligible for assistance under part 1416 of title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations for losses related to COVID–19, processors, or other fishery-related businesses, who have incurred, as a direct or indirect result of the coronavirus pandemic, economic revenue losses greater than 35 percent as compared to the prior five-year average revenue or any negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries.
Rolling basis: Funds may be awarded under this section on a rolling basis, and within a fishing season, to ensure rapid delivery of funds during the COVID–19 pandemic.
Appropriations: In addition to funds that are otherwise made available to assist fishery participants under this Act, there are authorized to be appropriated, and there are appropriated, $300,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2021, to carry out this section, of which up to 2 percent may be used for administration and oversight activities.
Emergency requirement: The amount provided by this section is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.
CARES Act Funding Questions
On March 29, 2021, NOAA Fisheries announced the allocation of an additional $255 million in fisheries assistance funding provided by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The funding will support activities previously authorized under Sec. 12005 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). It will be allocated to states, and territories with coastal and marine fishery participants who have been negatively affected by COVID-19. View frequently asked questions below.
How do 2021 COVID-19 fisheries assistance allocations differ from 2020 CARES Act allocations?
The funding appropriated in the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act has been divided differently between states, tribes, and territories than in the first round. In this round, Congress has designated $30 million for federally recognized tribes in coastal or Great Lakes states, and $15 million for Great Lakes states that were not previously funded.
What types of fishing-related businesses are eligible for assistance?
“Fishery-related businesses” should be limited to:
- Commercial fishing businesses
- Charter/for-hire fishing businesses
- Qualified aquaculture operations
- Other fishery-related businesses
Businesses farther down the supply chain—including vessel repair businesses, restaurants, or seafood retailers—are not considered “fishery-related businesses” for the purposes of this funding. States and territories have the discretion to determine whether marine bait and tackle operations and marine gear and vessel suppliers are eligible for assistance in their spend plans, consistent with the requirements of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act and the CARES Act.
Who should affected fishermen and communities contact about accessing this funding?
Eligible fishery participants should work with their state marine fisheries management agencies, or territories, to understand the process for applying for these funds.
Can eligible fishery participants receive direct payments?
Direct payments are expressly allowed under the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act and Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act. Each state or territory’s spend plan must reflect the appropriate use of funds and considerations as outlined in the Request for Applications letter and the allocation table provided.
How long will it take for affected fishermen to get funding from the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act?
It will vary. However, we expect that this funding will be disbursed more quickly than the CARES Act funds from March 2020. We will be able to take advantage of processes established with states, territories, and commissions under CARES Act funding.
Which types of aquaculture operations are eligible for funding?
Privately owned aquaculture businesses growing products in state or federal marine waters, and the hatcheries that supply them, are eligible for assistance under the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act. This includes all molluscan shellfish and marine algae, as well as non-salmonid marine finfish. All aquaculture businesses must also meet the eligibility requirements specified in Section 12005 of the CARES Act and in their state’s spend plan.
On what basis did the agency make the allocation decision?
Given the definition of “fishery participant” identified in Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act, the agency used readily available total annual revenue information from the commercial fishing, charter fishing, aquaculture, and processor/seafood sectors of coastal states and territories to proportionately allocate the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act funding. Congress specified that no coastal state or territory shall receive less than 1 percent of the funds allocated, and no more than a state or territory’s total annual average revenue from fishery-related sectors.
Additional details regarding the sources of revenue data:
- Commercial fishing revenues: For most states and territories, NOAA Fisheries used a five-year average of annual commercial fishing revenues from 2014–2018 based on data obtained from NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Science and Technology’s commercial landings database. For U.S. territories, five-year average commercial fishing revenues from 2014–2018 were obtained from the Fisheries of the United States report.
- Aquaculture revenues: Most aquaculture revenue data was embedded within the commercial landings revenue data used to calculate five-year average commercial fishing revenues. We used updated USDA Census of Aquaculture data to account for aquaculture sales not accounted for within commercial fishing landings data (e.g., oysters, mussels, clams from select states). Multi-year averages were not available for aquaculture sales derived from the USDA Census of Aquaculture data.
- Seafood sector revenues: The commercial fishing landings revenue and aquaculture sales (defined as described above) were used to calculate direct value-added estimates for the seafood sector (i.e., processors, dealers, and wholesalers/distributors) using NOAA Fisheries’ Commercial Fishing & Seafood Industry Economic Impact Model. The Alaska and West Coast direct value added estimates were calculated from regional models. Direct value added is essentially sales revenue less the cost of seafood inputs. This metric ensures that revenue was not double counted in both the commercial and seafood sectors and that expenditures that flow out of the country from imported seafood products were not included in any revenue estimates.
- For-hire fishing revenues: For most states, average for-hire fishing revenues from 2015–2019 were based on angler payments to for-hire operations for fishing trips. Data on angler payments were based on NOAA Fisheries’ Angler Expenditures Surveys and data on directed for-hire fishing trips were derived from NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program. For Hawaii, Alaska, and the Caribbean territories, NOAA Fisheries used charter vessel cost earnings surveys.
All sales and value added data was converted into 2019 dollars. We made several additional adjustments to the data described above to account for specific aspects of fisheries.
We adjusted average annual landings revenue data from Alaska, New England, and Mid-Atlantic states to attribute landings in those regions to a vessel owner’s state of residence to better reflect where fishing income accrues. We made these adjustments by determining the proportion of landings in a particular state attributed to vessel owners residing in another state and distributing revenue accordingly. We applied a similar adjustment to at-sea processors on the West Coast. We did not apply this adjustment broadly to other fisheries on the West Coast or Pacific Islands, Southeast, and Gulf of Mexico fisheries, because comparable state-by-state vessel ownership data was not readily available. Those regions represent a relatively small proportion of the nation’s total commercial fishery landings revenues and are smaller in scale relative to Alaska fisheries and the West Coast at-sea processors. Adjustments in those regions would not significantly impact the overall allocation across all applicable states, tribes, and territories.
NOAA Fisheries proportionally allocated the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act funds based on the total average annual revenues from coastal states and territories. This is the general formula we used:
The 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act included language that set a floor of $3 million for coastal states and territories. Congress also specified that a coastal state or territory cannot receive CARES Act and 2021 COVID-19 fisheries assistance that would exceed their total annual average revenue from commercial fishing operations, aquaculture firms, the seafood supply chain, and charter fishing businesses. NOAA Fisheries applied these floors and caps to the $255 million allocation.
Who will be responsible for determining if fishery losses exceed the 35 percent standard and applying for assistance?
Given the broad range of fisheries and entities affected across multiple jurisdictions, it will be important to provide states and territories flexibility in determining how they will identify which fishery participants meet the requirements. Thus, each state/territory will be required to determine how they will verify which fishery participants meet the threshold of economic revenue losses greater than 35 percent as compared to the prior five-year average or negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries. The spend plans will provide details on their proposed process for making these determinations.
When will the allocations for Great Lakes and tribes be announced?
NOAA Fisheries is required by the Act to consult with tribes on the application and distribution process for the tribal funds. NOAA Fisheries has initiated those consultations and will continue to work as quickly as possible to finalize the process. We will also continue working with the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission and Great Lakes states to finalize the process for allocating and distributing the Great Lakes funds. We hope to announce those allocations in the coming weeks.
If an individual lives in one state but fishes in another state, where should they apply?
Generally speaking, individuals are expected to apply in their state of residence. Individuals who are residents of a state who did not receive fisheries assistance, but who hold a valid permit in a state that did receive funds, may be eligible in the state they are permitted in, depending on the eligibility criteria established by that state. In developing the state-specific allocations of funds, NOAA Fisheries made a homeporting adjustment to commercial revenue to attribute revenue to an individual’s state of residence as opposed to where they land their fish based on the data we had available. Therefore, non-resident, commercial fishermen should not be eligible for funds unless they are a resident of a state that did not receive an allocation under the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Likewise a resident who lands fish elsewhere is still subject to this residency requirement. It is up to the states to determine the document(s) they will require to determine eligibility of fishery participants and if the state will allow state residents to apply who have federal permits only or are permitted only in other states.
Given the nature of aquaculture operations and processing/dealers, we don’t anticipate there would be resident aquaculture and/or processor/dealers who would be permitted only in another state. With respect to the charter for-hire sector, there is flexibility for a state to allow non-residents to be eligible in the state they are permitted in. In all the above scenarios, the requirements of the act still apply (e.g., must have greater than 35 percent revenue loss compared to the previous five-year average, can not be made more than whole).
Does Pennsylvania drop out of this round of funding, considering they were eligible in the previous round? Will Pennsylvania be a part of the Great Lakes portions of this funding?
For this appropriation, funding is only available to Pennsylvania for the Great Lakes portion of funding.
Congress determined that only those states bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, or Gulf of Mexico are eligible for the $255 million. Congress changed the language around eligible states/territories by specifying they need to border the Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf of Mexico.
In addition to this new round of funding in the $255 million, will New York also be eligible for the Great Lakes portion?
Yes, New York will be eligible for both the $255 million for marine/coastal fishery participants in coastal states and the $15 million for Great Lakes states. For the $15 million, only revenue from New York’s Great Lakes fisheries will be used to determine their allocation.
Is the tribal funding limited only to federally recognized tribes that manage a tribal fishery?
No, this funding may be available to support federally recognized tribes that do not participate in tribally managed fisheries but have experienced coronavirus-related fishing impacts to their commercial, for-hire, processor, and qualified aquaculture businesses or their ceremonial and subsistence fisheries.
Economic assistance efforts are changing quickly. Please see the links below for the most up-to-date info.
- The Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant Program – provides grants to eligible state agencies and territories to support seafood processors, including at-sea processing vessels, to respond to coronavirus, including for measures to protect workers against COVID-19. Applications were due by Monday, November 22, 2021.
- Non-NOAA Federal Grant or Loan Programs for Fishermen or Cooperatives
COVID-19 Financial Assistance Resources by Island Area
- Round 2 Hawaii Cares Act Application is now closed – applications were due on Thursday, September 30, 2021 to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. Applicants were encouraged to review the revised spend plan prior to applying.
- American Samoa Cares Act Application is now closed – applications were due on Thursday, December 31, 2020 at 4:00 pm at the American Samoa Dept. of Marine and Wildlife Resources Office (AS DMWR).
- If you have questions, you can contact the following individual: Selaina Vaitautolu, AS DMWR Deputy Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- CNMI Cares Act Application is now closed – applications were due on Monday, March 1, 2021 at the CNMI Office of Grants Management.
- Participant affidavit – Commercial Fisheries Activities
- Participant affidavit – Subsistence Fishermen
- If you have questions, you can contact the following individuals: Anthony Benavente, CNMI Dept. of Lands & Natural Resources Secretary at (670) 322-9830/4 or via email at email@example.com or Epiphanio Cabrera, CNMI Grants Office Special Assistant at (670) 237-2200 or via email at Epi.Cabrera@gov.mp.
- Guam CARES Act FISHERS Application is now closed – applications were due on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, to the Guam Department of Agriculture (DOAG) Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (DAWR) office or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Guam CARES Act FISHERS’ Participant Sworn Affidavit fillable
- Guam CARES Act Fishers’ Form W-9 fillable
- If you have questions, you can contact the following individuals: Chelsa Muna-Brecht, Guam DOAG Director at Chelsa.email@example.com, or Frank Roberto, Guam DAWR Fishery Biologist at Frank.firstname.lastname@example.org, or Cristian Cayanan, Guam DAWR Fishery Biologist at Cristian.email@example.com.
COVID News Articles of Fisheries Interest by Island Area
- “Kona fishing tournament postponed due to Covid-19.” April 5, 2021. Pacific Business News.
- “Honolulu Fish Co. builds direct-to-consumer business.” April 2, 2021. Hawaii Business News.
- “Am Samoa’s fishing industry damaged to the tune of $54M just this year.” Dec. 16, 2021. Samoa News.
- “StarKist Samoa returns to two shifts for final days of 2021.” Dec. 15, 2021. Samoa News.
- “Amata Cosponsors Bill To Allow Unspent COVID Relief Dollars For More Infrastructure Uses.” Nov. 5, 2021. Press Release from Congresswoman Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen.
- “COVID vax remains mandatory for entry into American Samoa.” Oct. 14, 2021. Samoa News.
- “Report looks at impact of COVID on Am Samoa fisheries and the cannery.” Sept. 18, 2021. Samoa News.
- “Fisheries relief payouts now available for distribution.” Oct. 15, 2021. Marianas Variety.
- “San Nicolas: Federal aid ‘drying up’” April 14, 2021. Guam Daily Post.
- “Guam fishermen finally get federal aid.” March 22, 2021. Kuam.
- “PSMFC Distribution of CARES Act Fisheries Relief in Progress in 5 States.” Jan. 5, 2022. Fishermen’s News.
- “COVID-19 Impacts on U.S. Fishing and Seafood Industries Show Broad Declines in 2020.” Dec. 14, 2021. NMFS.