Members of fisheries who are still waiting on disaster funding checks will be on hold again until after the shutdown is over.

The West Coast states' Dungeness and rock crab fishery disaster spend plans, submitted in September, were still pending when the shutdown began on Dec. 21.

"The shutdown is holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster payments to fishing families, which cannot be approved until and unless staff at the Department of Commerce return from furlough," said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "Core functions of the federal administration that impact all of us in this industry have gone dark. This situation is absurd."

Meanwhile, the new U.S. House of Representatives has approved another $150 million in disaster assistance for recovery from Hurricanes Florence and Michael, as well as Typhoons Yutu and Mangkhut (those affected U.S. territories in the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, respectively).

On the topic of storms and disasters, I would be remiss if I didn't offer my deepest respect and gratitude to the U.S. Coast Guard members who continue to serve and save lives without pay.

I hope Congress votes to approve back pay when this stand-off is over, but in the meantime, all I can offer is: Hold tight, thank you and godspeed.

Our tariff stand-off with China could be coming to an end soon, as signs show that the Chinese economy is suffering as a result of the Trump administration's increase in tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods.

Trade negotiations in May 2017 resulted in protections for beef and poultry products, but left seafood under the onus of the 10 percent hike in tariffs as well as retaliatory Chinese tariffs, which have been in effect since the fall.

The Trump administration opted on Dec. 1 to delay an additional 25 percent increase in tariffs on Chinese imports until early March in order to give the two nations 90 days to strike a new deal.

In the meantime, several fisheries with strong Capitol Hill representation have negotiated their way around the new tariffs. The rest of our fleets can only hope the negotiations work well for our seafood markets here and around the world.

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 14 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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