Feb 8 2016

Federal disaster loans offered to commercial Dungeness crab fishermen


Monterey – Help is on the way in the form of federal disaster loans for commercial fishermen who have suffered financial losses from California’s canceled commercial Dungeness crab season this year.

That’s according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which announced this week that it is offering low-interest federal disaster loans to small business commercial fishermen. With a “disaster” declaration made by Gov. Jerry Brown, fishermen can receive immediate access to the loans of up to $2 million at an interest rate of 4 percent (2.625 percent for private, non-profit organizations) with terms of up to 30 years. Those eligible include any small business owner or worker engaged in crab fishing in the waters affected by the delay of the season itself or by the closure of Rock Crab Fishery. That includes the suppliers of fishing gear and fuel, docks and boatyards, processors, wholesalers, shippers and retailers. The declaration covers 39 counties in California including Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, and two counties in Nevada and two counties in Oregon.

“If anybody feels like they’re impacted in any way, shape or form, than they should apply,” said Susheel Kumar, Public Information Officer for the Small Business Association.

It was in November that state officials closed the Dungeness crab fishing season after finding unsafe levels of a toxin called domoic acid, caused by a massive coastal algae bloom fueled by El Nino.

The season was originally set to kick off on Nov. 15.

“We run crab combos from November until April where we put the pots out in the water and go pull out the crab pots in the afternoon,” said Chris Arcoleo of Chris’s Fishing Trips and Whale Watching in Monterey. “So without having the crabs to make the trip worthwhile for those people, it really affects you. And once you get into January and February, all we can fish for is flat fish, and it affects the amount of fish you can take trips out for.”

The closed crab fishing season has also impacted Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing, according to owner Phil DiGirolama.

“We didn’t have any local crab so we’re bringing crab up from Oregon and the price reflects that,” said DiGirolama.

But for Mike Ricketts of the Monterey Commercial Fishing Association who has made his living from crab and salmon fishing for the last 40 years, it has been a combination of the recent bad salmon season and now crab season that has really hit him and other fishermen hard.

“No one saw it coming so nobody could prepare for it,” said Ricketts. “Fishermen had already spent a considerable amount of money without having any way to repay it.”

Ricketts said that probably 80 percent of income from crab fishing has gone by.

“Most guys are living off their credit cards,” he said. “And now the further we go into the season, the less demand there is for crab.”

Ricketts is also leery of the SBA loans.

“That doesn’t help a lot of people because of the collateral they want,” he said. “If you own a boat and you can’t pay it back, they’ll want your boat and that scares a lot of fishermen. If we don’t get to go fishing, there are no ways for these to be repaid.”

But Kumar said that help is there if needed and those interested can learn more at two different information sessions in the Monterey area, one at the Moss Landing Harbor District at 7881 Sandholdt Road on Wednesday and the other at the Monterey Harbor Office at 250 Figueroa St. on Friday, Feb. 12. Applicants can also go online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Last year, California crab fishermen caught 16.8 million pounds of Dungeness, worth $58.3 million. That was considered a “strong” season, according to the 2014 Dungeness Crab Report put out by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.

This year, the commercial season is scheduled to end June 30.

Carly Mayberry can be reached at 726-4363.

Read the original post: http://www.marinij.com/

Leave a Reply