• By Pacific island Times News Staff

Guam fishers stand to receive $1 million under CARES Act

Guam stands to receive $1 million from the $300 million allocation for the fisheries authorized under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act. The funds are part of the relief to address the impact of Covid-19 on the nation's fisheries.

According to the Department of Agriculture's Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is developing precise guidelines that will provide requirements for how the money will be distributed to fishers.

"Once the guidelines are developed, the money will be given to a fisheries commission that will oversee the dispersal of the money to individual fishers on Guam," the department said.

The commission will be tasked to work with DOAG DAWR to develop a plan for Guam.

In anticipation of this, DOAG DAWR has already written a draft plan based on general guidelines already provided, and will submit this for approval once the guidelines are ready.

The first step in this entire process is to have all Guam fishers register with DOAG DAWR. Fishers can find the registration form on doag.guam.gov under Resources then Forms. The registration form is also being distributed via Whatsapp through fishers’ chat groups. Hard copies of the forms are also available in the DAWR office. For those with digital access, DOAG DAWR recommends downloading the free Adobe Acrobat app, or something similar, to fill out the form, sign it digitally, and then email the form to fisheries@doag.guam.gov.

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Chelsa Muña-Brecht, director of DOAG urges fishers to register. “Our goal is to have every Guam fisher benefit from this program. In order to make that happen we need to first establish how many fishers we have, both commercial and sustenance," she said.

"DOAG DAWR worked with the WestPac Guam Fisheries Advisory Panel and the Fishermens Co-Op to ensure that the registration form and draft plan considers each type of fisher fairly. We are here to help our community benefit and thrive,” Muña-Brecht added.

During a meeting in Hawaii on May 29, the Council Coordinating Committee recommended that the distribution of any additional funds take into account the use of other relief programs, such as those offered through the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Paycheck Protection Program.

The committee suggested that entities that receive support from other programs should be given a lower priority than those that do not. It also said funding allocations should consider loss directly related to Covid-19.

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“The biggest impact to US commercial fisheries in the Western Pacific Region and our ability to provide food to the nation is our inability to fish in 83 percent of the US EEZ waters around Hawaii and 52 percent of the US EEZ in our region due principally to marine national monument fishing restrictions,” said Taotasi Archie Soliai, chair of the Western Pacific Council, which hosted the meeting.

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