Hawaii & Alaska
via Pikist

AK - Alaska Fishing Industry Likely Incurred Tens of Millions of Dollars in Coronavirus-Related Expenses

Alaska seafood processors are paying tens of millions of dollars extra to cover costs from the COVID-19 pandemic, and most of it is coming out of pocket.

Intrafish Media provides a first, in-depth look at how costs for providing protective gear like masks and gloves, testing thermometers, extra staff to handle sanitizing demands between work shifts, and modifying worker lines for social distancing are playing out in the nation’s seafood processing sector.

At Bristol Bay, for example, where around 13,000 workers from outside Alaska come to work on fishing boats and in 13 plants of varying sizes, it’s estimated that all major processors combined likely spent $30 million to $40 million on COVID-related costs during the two peak fishing months of June and July this summer.

Alaska processors covered extra costs for putting up employees in hotels and other 14-day quarantine sites, as required by the state. That alone added up to an estimated $3,500 per worker.

Seafood companies also paid for pricey charter flights to isolate workers from passengers on commercial flights.

Most medium to large processors had medical professionals onsite for the duration, at a cost of $30,000 to $60,000, Intrafish said.

Workers were tested multiple times for the virus, with costs amounting to $175 per test.

Intrafish cited testimony by Silver Bay Seafoods CEO Cora Campbell at a virtual U.S. Senate committee hearing on July 29.

“In the past several months, Alaska seafood processors have spent tens of millions of dollars implementing proactive health and safety protocols to ensure we are minimizing risks to Alaska communities, protecting our seasonal and resident workforce, and maintaining operations,” she testified.

“The industry is taking on these costs out of pocket at the same time we are facing severe disruption in key markets and multiple pre-COVID cost burdens,” Campbell told the senators. “While a fraction of these costs may be reimbursed, we face significant uncertainty because there’s no specific congressional directive to support health and safety protocol costs for critical seafood supply chains.”

COVID prevention measures have not been included so far in federal relief loans and funds. It is unknown if they will be added into a stimulus relief package Congress could eventually pass when it returns in September from a month long vacation.

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