CARES Act provides more than $5M for NC commercial fishing industry

The fishing trawler Lady Logan makes its way through Taylor’s Creek near Beaufort. Approved as part of the CARES Act is more than $5 million to support the commercial fishing industry in North Carolina. (Mike Shutak photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Commercial fishermen in North Carolina will receive more than $5 million in federal financial assistance through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an announcement last week, saying the U.S. Secretary of Commerce announced the allocation of $300 million in fisheries assistance funding provided by Sec. 12005 of the CARES Act to states, tribes and territories with coastal and marine fishery participants who have been negatively affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Under the act, North Carolina’s commercial fishermen will receive $5,460,385.

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the relief package will support America’s fishermen and the seafood sector’s recovery.

“Thank you President (Donald) Trump, (U.S. Treasury) Secretary (Steven) Mnuchin and our congressional leaders of both parties for your work to pass the historic legislation that is bringing much needed relief to America’s fishermen,” Mr. Ross said. “This administration stands with the men and women working to provide healthy and safe seafood during this uniquely challenging time, while our U.S. fisheries work to continue to support 1.7 million jobs and to generate $200 billion in annual sales. The nation is grateful to our fishermen for their commitment.”

N.C. Sen. Thom Tillis praised the appropriation.

“While we are seeing our agriculture community take a direct hit from the coronavirus pandemic, we must not forget about our fisheries,” Sen. Tillis said in a Monday release. “North Carolina’s coastal communities are no strangers to hardship, and I am glad the fishing industry is getting some of the relief it desperately needs. I will continue to work hard so our fisheries and seafood industries can rebuild from the economic devastation caused by COVID-19.”

As a next step, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service will use these allocations to make awards to its partners: the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They will disburse the funds to address direct or indirect fishery-related losses, as well as subsistence, cultural or ceremonial impacts related to COVID-19.

NMFS Assistant Administrator Chris Oliver said the fisheries service will rely primarily on its partners at the interstate marine fishery commissions during the award process.

“They have a demonstrated track record of disbursing funds provided to them quickly and effectively,” Mr. Oliver said.

The commissions then will work with each state, tribe and territory to develop spending plans consistent with the CARES Act and NOAA’s guidance. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will submit award applications and spend plans to the agency directly.

All spending plans must describe the main categories for funding, including direct payments, fishery-related infrastructure and fishery-related education that address direct and indirect impacts to commercial fishermen, charter businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, subsistence/cultural/ceremonial users, processors and other fishery-related businesses. Once a plan has been approved by NOAA, the agency anticipates the three commissions will review applications and process payments to eligible fishery participants on behalf of the states and territories. The states will have the option to process payments themselves.

Fishery participants eligible for funding include tribes, commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors and other fishery-related businesses. They should work with their state marine fisheries management agencies, territories or tribe to understand the process for applying for these funds.

For the purposes of Sec. 12005 funding, businesses farther down the supply chain, including vessel repair businesses, restaurants or seafood retailers, are not considered “fishery-related businesses.”

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