Four U.S. fisheries, from New York’s troubled bay scallops to Northwest salmon, were declared to have suffered fishery disasters in 2018-2020 by Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo this week.

The collapses affected two states, Alaska and New York, and two Tribes, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis, in Washington.

“Fisheries are essential to our communities and economy, and we want to ensure America is in a position to remain competitive on the global stage,” Secretary Raimondo in a June 29 announcement. “These determinations allow us to lend a helping hand to the fishing families and communities that have experienced very real and difficult setbacks in the last few years.”

The secretary of commerce with NMFS evaluates fishery disaster requests, based primarily on data submitted by the requesting state or tribe.

To win a disaster declaration and aid eligibility those requests must meet specific requirements under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and/or the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act. Requests must demonstrate “commercial fishery economic impacts and declines in fishery access or biomass resulting from specific allowable causes due to the fishery disaster event,” according to the department.

The qualifying requests were for:

● 2019 Norton Sound Red King Crab in Alaska

● 2019/2020 Peconic Bay Scallop in New York

● 2018 Port Gamble S’Klallam Puget Sound Coho Salmon in Washington

● 2019 Chehalis and Black River Spring Chinook Salmon in Washington

Positive determinations make these fisheries eligible for disaster assistance from NOAA. They may also qualify for disaster assistance from the Small Business Administration. The Department of Commerce has balances remaining from previously appropriated fishery disaster assistance and will determine the appropriate allocation for these disasters.

However, Commerce and NMFS officials determined that red tides afflicting the Florida Gulf coast did not cause a fishery disaster for Florida fisheries between 2018 and 2019.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., denounced that decision.

“In August 2018, I witnessed the destruction of the red tide event firsthand, as well as its impact on countless Floridians up and down the Gulf Coast," Rubio said in a statement following the annoncement.

“The Biden Administration’s assertion that the red tides of 2018 and 2019 do not amount to a fisheries disaster is insulting, and it appears to be a blatantly political move – one that risks severe consequences for the economies of the communities directly impacted," said Rubio. "Secretary Raimondo's determination runs counter to common sense and shows a complete disregard for the devastating losses experienced by many Floridians in recent years due to these events.”

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