Charleston Harbor

Boats sit in Charleston Harbor where local fisheries have reported decreases in products coming in.

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SALEM — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday that it will coordinate with what it calls “fishery participants” to distribute some $16 million in anticipated federal aid to those in the coastal fishery and marine-related businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The act includes provisions for those states, tribes and territories that have what ODFW called “fishery participants” that have been negatively impacted by the virus. The amount set aside for fisheries is $300 million, of which Oregon is anticipated to receive $16 million. According to a press release from May 14, ODFW will be the lead state agency coordinating with fisheries to coordinate this aid.

Businesses which may qualify for funding include: “commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fishery-related businesses,” according to the press release.

The press release states that those businesses that are related to fishery but are “farther down the supply chain,” are not eligible for this funding, but may be eligible for other CARES Act aid. The release mentions vessel repair businesses, restaurants and seafood retailers as specific examples of businesses that are not eligible for the funding. However, those businesses may be eligible for other types of CARES Act help.

Tribal fisheries are eligible for CARES Act aid, but that process will be handled by an outside agency, not ODFW.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will provide guidance, criteria and application materials to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. The commission will then work with ODFW and the affected parties to develop spending plans that are in line with both the guidance from NOAA and the CARES Act.

The spending plans must be approved by NOAA before funds can be distributed. Distribution of CARES Act funds must be completed before Sept. 30, 2021. However, according to the ODFW release, the agency hopes to submit Oregon’s spending plans and applications to NOAA “by early fall this year to begin the approval and disbursement process.”

The release quoted Ed Bowles, ODFW Fish Division Administrator, who said, “These fisheries are a vital part of Oregon’s economic, cultural and community health, and many businesses directly supporting these fisheries have been severely impacted by the ongoing pandemic. We look forward to working with those affected to provide some economic relief.”

More information and the CARES Act and Oregon’s spending plan process will be available on ODFW’s Fish Division webpage  (https://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/CARES/) once information and application materials become available.

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