A working group made up of major players in Alaska's Bristol Bay salmon season are requesting all workers test negative for COVID-19 at least 48 hours before even making their way to the Bristol Bay region.
The proposed measure that's not yet legally binding, has been endorsed by the Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC), and aims to "prioritize human health and safeguard our communities from the risk of catastrophic loss due to the COVID-19 crisis."
The group is asking that individuals traveling to the region fly directly from an airport to their quarantine destination and remain in "controlled quarantine" until a follow-up negative COVID-19 test is confirmed.
The working group is also asking that any individuals within the confines of a community are subject to two health screenings, and is asking for several restrictions on flights into the area.
"Since commercial fishing is deemed by the federal government as an 'essential critical infrastructure,' we are committed to advocating in unison with the fishing industry for appropriate testing equipment and resources needed to meet these requirements," the group said of the measure.
Bristol Bay is a magnet for people in the summer, with a seasonal migration of about 13,000 workers for the summer fishing season, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
The majority of companies operating in the area are from Seattle, and the overwhelming amount of laborers do not live in the region. A significant number of fishing permits are also owned by out-of-region or out-of-state individuals.
Given the growing spread of the disease, some community members in Dillingham and industry members have been questioning if and how the salmon season will proceed, Norm Van Vactor, CEO of BBEDC recently told IntraFish.
"At at the end of the day, we're going to be putting public health and the safety of employees, fishermen and community members ahead of everything else," he said.
"As you look around the world and you see things like the 2020 Olympic Games being potentially canceled, it makes us seem very economically small by comparison. It's about weighing priorities, which without question for us is about public safety and keeping our community safe."
Rules would go beyond state requirements
The proposed regulations go beyond the state of Alaska's current requirements, which only require individuals (residents or otherwise) to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival from outside of the state.
The city of Cordova, where Copper River fishing is set to take place in a month, is also requiring companies coming into the city from outside to agree to the quarantine and other preventative conditions by April 3 to be able to participate in the fishery.
The Bristol Bay salmon season typically starts in June, and some in the industry are still working on a response to the pandemic.
Another group, the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) has "strongly advised" that fishermen planning to harvest in Bristol Bay, the world's most valuable wild salmon fishery, delay their trip "to give the region and industry time to prepare."
In addition to asking residents to follow state recommendations, BBRSDA is advising any non-resident fishermen thinking about traveling to Bristol Bay prior to May 1 to reconsider to prevent unnecessary interaction.
"While we cannot commit to any specific safety protocols just yet, we are examining the possibility of arranging chartered flights (to keep industry/community separate), pre-flight health screening, keeping nonresident fishermen out of local stores by having provisions delivered, medevac coverage, staying out of local airports, and confining nonresident crews to boatyard areas prior to the season," BBRSDA said in a statement April 1.
The BBRSDA said it will have its protocols created by April 10.