COVID-19 Update for Fishing Community
WPRFMC is actively monitoring and adjusting to the COVID-19 national health crisis. Ensuring the health and safety of our employees, partners and broader fishing community during this crisis is a priority. We remain fully operational with much of our workforce teleworking. Most of our meetings will be held via teleconference but check out our meeting page often for updates. We will continue to fulfill our mission, managing the nation’s marine fisheries resources.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Click on the links below to learn more)
CARES Act and Other Fishing Assistance Related to COVID-19
On December 21, 2020, Congress passed a new $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. It provides $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, the House passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (HR 748). It includes $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
Q. Who should affected fishermen and communities contact about accessing this funding?
A. Fishery participants eligible for funding—including Tribes, commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fishery-related businesses—should work with their state marine fisheries management agencies, territories, or Tribe to understand the process for applying for these funds.
Q. Can eligible fishery participants receive direct payments?
A. Direct payments are expressly allowed under Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act. Each Commissions’ grant application must meet the requirements of the CARES Act and reflect the appropriate use of funds and considerations as outlined in the Request for Applications, the Request for Applications letter and the allocation table provided.
Q. How long will it take for affected fishermen to get funding from the CARES Act?
A. It will vary, however we expect that Sec. 12005 funding will be disbursed more quickly than fishery disaster assistance funds because the CARES Act language does not require the Secretary of Commerce to declare a fishery disaster. The CARES Act also allows the funds to be awarded on a “rolling basis,” which will enable NOAA Fisheries to execute the funds more nimbly in partnership with the states, Tribes, and territories.
Q. What types of fishing-related businesses are eligible for assistance?
A. For the purposes of carrying out the provisions in Section 12005 of the CARES Act, “fishery-related businesses” should be limited to commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and dealers. 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. NOAA Fisheries generally does not expect bait and tackle operations and gear and vessel suppliers to be eligible for Section 12005 funding. However, individual states, Tribes, and territories will have the discretion to determine how they will identify eligible fishery participants, consistent with the requirements of the CARES Act, in their spend plans.
Q. Which Tribes are eligible for assistance?
A. The definition of “fishery participant” identified in Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act, includes Tribal fishery participants. So, Tribes in coastal states with marine or anadromous fisheries and/or marine shellfish or finfish aquaculture operations are eligible for Sec. 12005 funds. Tribes in non-coastal states with freshwater fisheries will not be eligible for Sec. 12005 funds.
Q. Which types of aquaculture operations are eligible for funding?
A. Privately owned aquaculture businesses growing products in state or federal marine waters of the United States and the hatcheries that supply them are eligible for Sec. 12005 funding. This includes all molluscan shellfish and marine algae. Non-salmonid marine finfish grown in marine waters not covered by USDA are eligible for Sec. 12005 funding.
Q. On what basis did the agency make the initial allocation decision?
A. 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, Tribes, and territories to proportionately allocate Sec. 12005 funding. NOAA Fisheries also took into consideration negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, and ceremonial fisheries during the allocation process. In addition, NOAA Fisheries established a minimum and maximum funding level ($1 million and $50 million, respectively).
Q. Who will be responsible for determining if fishery losses exceed the 35 percent standard and applying for assistance?
A. 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 described in Sec. 12005(b)(1)-(2). Thus, each state/Tribe/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.
Economic assistance efforts are changing quickly. Please see the links below for the most up-to-date info.
- Federal guidance for small businesses, including information on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program:
COVID-19 Financial Assistance Resources by Island Area
- Hawaii Cares Act Application is now closed – applications were due on Monday, November 23, 2020 to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
- 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 email@example.com.
- CNMI Cares Act Application – applications must be received by 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 – ***Application date extended. Applications are due by Friday, January 29, 2021, and must be submitted to the Guam Department of Agriculture (DOAG) Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (DAWR) office or via email at email@example.com.
- 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.firstname.lastname@example.org, or Frank Roberto, Guam DAWR Fishery Biologist at Frank.email@example.com, or Cristian Cayanan, Guam DAWR Fishery Biologist at Cristian.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth
On May 7, 2020, President Trump signed the Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth. The intent of the order is to strengthen the American economy; improve the competitiveness of American industry; ensure food security; provide environmentally safe and sustainable seafood; support American workers; ensure coordinated, predictable, and transparent Federal actions; and remove unnecessary regulatory burdens. To read the whole Executive Order, click here.
COVID News Articles of Fisheries Interest by Island Area
- “Hawaii running out of time to spend CARES Act money.” Nov. 14, 2020. Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
- “Federal Funding Available to Hawai‘i Fisheries Impacted by Pandemic.” Nov. 2, 2020. Big Island Now.
- “The Conversation: Fishing, Farming and Food Banks Support Community Though Crisis.” Oct. 2, 2020. Hawaii Public Radio.
- “Longline fishing industry pins hopes on restaurant reopening.” Sept. 22, 2020. Hawaii Public Radio.
- ““Fish to Dish” Program Supports Local Families and Businesses.” Sept. 16, 2020. City and County of Honolulu.
- “Hawaii’s fishing industry faces lasting impacts as pandemic drags on.” Sept. 15, 2020. Hawaii News Now.
- “This Is How Honolulu Is Spending $387 Million In CARES Act Money.” Sept. 14, 2020. Honolulu Civil Beat.
- “Trump finally signs stimulus bill — What’s in it for American Samoa?” Dec. 28, 2020. Samoa News.
- “DMWR works to complete screening for fishers funding by year’s end.” Dec. 26, 2020. Samoa News.
- “Checks to be issued in March for fisheries grants.” Dec. 22, 2020. Talanei.
- “DMWR office mobbed by “fishermen” applying for CARES Act funding.” Dec. 7, 2020. Samoa News.
- “$4.4 Million in fed support on tap for local fishing workforce and economy.” Nov. 29, 2020. Samoa News.
- “Five fishermen appear in District Court for violating COVID-19 Declaration.” Sept. 30, 2020. Samoa News.
- “$980K aid available to fishermen.” Dec. 1, 2020. Saipan Tribune.
- “Governor Torres renews CNMI state of public health emergency – Executive Order 2020-15.” July 16, 2020. Marianas Variety.
- “Fishers still eligible for relief fund, deadline Jan. 29.” Jan. 13, 2021. Kuam.
- “Eligible Guam fishermen can now apply for $1M in COVID relief funding.” Oct. 29, 2020. Pacific News Center.
- “Fishermen struggle amid COVID, lockdown.” Sept. 21, 2020. The Guam Daily Post.
- “Pacific Islands Fisheries Impacts from COVID-19.” Jan. 15, 2021. NOAA Fisheries.
- “NOAA Fisheries Updated Impact Assessment of the COVID-19 Crisis on the U.S. Commercial Seafood and Recreational For-Hire/Charter Industries.” Jan. 15, 2021. NOAA Fisheries.
- “CARES Act relief funding straggles into 2021.” Jan. 12, 2021. National Fisherman.
- “COVID relief bill includes second round of fishery relief funds.” Jan. 5, 2021. SeafoodSource.
- “Seafood industry urges states to keep workers near front of the COVID vaccination line.” Dec. 23, 2020. Seafood Source.
- “Seafood groups praise passage of COVID-19 relief package.” Dec. 22, 2020. Seafood Source.
- “US Senate passes bill to help young fishermen get into industry.” Dec. 9, 2020. SeafoodSource.
- “USDA extends sign-up period for Seafood Trade Relief Program.” Dec. 8, 2020. SeafoodSource.
- “As COVID impacts continue to hurt US fisheries, CARES Act funding still stuck in limbo.” Dec. 7, 2020. SeafoodSource.
- “Merkley, Reed Lead Push For U.S. Department Of Agriculture To Provide Seafood Industry With Much Needed Support.” Dec. 4, 2020. Press release from the office of Senator Jeff Merkley.
- “Bipartisan COVID relief plan calls for more fishery support.” Dec. 2, 2020. SeafoodSource.
- “NOAA Fisheries Official Reinforces Nation’s Commitment to Seafood Industry.” Oct. 12, 2020. Pacific Maritime Magazine Online.
- “Pandemic has resulted in huge boost to seafood sales worldwide.” Oct. 6, 2020. SeafoodSource.
- “Nineteen US senators push NOAA to resume research surveys.” Oct. 1, 2020. Undercurrent News.
- “Tuna tagging ‘even more important’ during Covid-19 pandemic.” Oct. 1, 2020. Radio New Zealand.