U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross declared fisheries disasters in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help those communities recover from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria that ripped through the Gulf in 2017.
“The Department of Commerce and NOAA support the rebuilding efforts of communities across the gulf, which were devastated by hurricanes in the past year,” said Ross. “This declaration provides a path forward to helping fishermen and businesses recover and grow.”
The devastating hurricanes made landfall in August and September of last year and caused an estimated $306 billion worth of damage altogether, according to NOAA.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello Nevares requested the disaster declarations.
Scott said Florida’s recreational fishing had an impact of $7.6 billion, and the dockside value of affected commercial fisheries is estimated at $244 million. Mapp explained the U.S. Virgin Islands’ artisanal commercial fishermen contribute an estimated $5 million in value to the state’s economy. Nevares estimated direct economic effects of $29 million dockside value from commercial fishing in Puerto Rico.
All three governors noted significant losses of fishing infrastructure, including docks, fish houses, fishing vessels and gear.
“These determinations provide the basis for Congress to appropriate disaster relief funding under the [Magnuson Stevens Act] and [Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act],” Ross wrote in a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “Should Congress appropriate disaster relief funding, NMFS will work with your state to develop a spend plan to assist with the recovery of Florida’s fishing industry and fishing communities.”
Similar letters were sent to the other states.