The Regional Economic Partnership (REP) at the Port has released a report with results of three fishing industry surveys on the economic impacts on local businesses. The survey was developed in coordination with the Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County. The intention of the survey was to capture the economic effects of COVID-19 on the commercial fishing industry.
The report details several important findings. The surveys received a good response with approximately 59 unique responses from commercial fishers, five responses from commercial fish tenders, and five responses from seafood processors. In lieu of a survey, interviews with Harvest Manager Ben Starkhouse and anonymous Tribal fishers informed the report on the economic impacts on Lummi Tribal fishers and their families.
Director of REP, Don Goldberg, noted that the results indicate that “the need for relief and assistance is immense and it is critical to get direct cash transfers and grants to businesses in need as quickly as possible.” The report further details that loans may be unhelpful to many small businesses as they reported already carrying high debt loads. Additionally, “as previously stated we see a demand for more financial relief tools that cover different business types and operations.”
As the report details, relief programs that require proof of paid federal taxes may exclude Tribal members and businesses from assistance that could save their businesses and livelihoods. Furthermore, relief programs that do not include 1099 contract workers, such as fishing crew, also exclude workers supporting the fishing industry, which is essential to food security.
The survey report will be distributed to local, county, state, and federal representatives as well as with a consortium of local service providers that support businesses, Team Whatcom. The results will inform strategies for economic recovery, help identify how much state and federal recovery aid will be needed, and give elected officials insight into the unique problems caused by COVID-19 on the commercial fishing industry.