Fishermen in the small Pacific Northwest town of Adak are reeling from a federal mandate to reduce pollution that has resulted in the deaths of at least 15 species of fish.
The local government has promised to implement measures to reduce mercury, carbon monoxide and other pollutants that have caused widespread illness in the local fishery.
But they are not getting the help they need.
“The fish industry in Adak has been left out,” said Mike O’Brien, who runs the Adak Fishery Commission.
“The government has not done a very good job in making sure the fish industry gets the money they need to do things to get our fish off the ground.”
The Adak fishery is the largest in the state, with more than 4,000 acres, including more than 700 head of fish, according to the fishery commission.
It has been the scene of several incidents that have left residents sick.
“We’re a small town.
We don’t have the money to go out and spend money on the fish,” said fisherman Chris Dufresne.
“It’s really sad.”
The federal mandate, announced in February, requires the Adaks to cut mercury and carbon monoxides, which can cause severe illness, among other ailments.
In addition, it requires the industry to use more chemicals in its processing and packaging, to improve air quality and to reduce the number of fish it takes from the ground.
The commission is the federal government’s regional partner in the fishers’ effort.
“What we want is to get the money we need to get those things done, and that’s what we’ve been asking for,” said O’Malley.
“They’ve been putting their money into it, but we’re not getting it.”
O’Reilly says the state is not getting its fair share of federal funds.
“There are people working for us, but they’re getting paid by the federal agency,” he said.
“And when you look at it, they’re not doing the job.”
According to the federal data, the Adakh fishing industry lost more than $40 million in 2015, a year in which it reported record numbers of fish kills.
The agency did not respond to a request for comment.
Dufreys mother said that her family has been working hard to find the money needed to do the job.
“You have to work to save the fish, to bring them back,” she said.
“It’s not a question of whether you should be fishing, it’s a question, and this is a question we’ve had for years, of how much of a profit can we make?” said Dufraes mother, whose daughter died of mercury poisoning at age three.
“I’m just hoping that we’re going to get some help from the federal Government and we’re getting it.
But the truth is, we can’t fish ourselves.”