Calif. fishermen await disaster relief funds

Commercial salmon season began last week for California fishermen in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay and Bodega Harbor after a three-month delay. Fishermen were happy to finally get out on the water, but news of pending fishery disaster relief funds is hanging over the opener.

In January, then-U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared nine salmon and crab fisheries on the West Coast and in Alaska as fisheries disasters.

West Coast representatives called for an allocation of $130 million to be paid out to fishermen, and West Coast senators made a failed attempt to include $150 million in the Senate’s budget recommendation, but the amount of funding currently being considered by the House Appropriations Committee has dropped to a recommended $20 million.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told the Times Standard the allocation doesn’t come close to making up for the financial losses experienced by affected fishermen.

But it’s better than nothing, and we’ll keep working on it,” said Huffman. ”We’ll have to take a look at just how inadequate whatever comes out of Congress is. If it’s woefully inadequate to meet the needs, we may need to work on supplemental disaster relief. The Senate will have a say in this, too. I think you can look at it as good news that there is some money in the House bill.”

The lack of relief funding puts tremendous pressure on fishermen trying to hang onto their livelihoods.

“[Relief funding] is so desperately needed by these coastal communities, “said Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations Executive Director Noah Oppenheim. “It’s two years overdue for crab. It’s a year overdue for salmon. It’s high time that this disaster aid is delivered to the communities that desperately need it.”

Relief fund appropriation will be determined in the time leading up to the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30.

About the author

Samuel Hill

Samuel Hill is associate editor for National Fisherman.

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