West Coast Dungeness crab and salmon fleets may get more much-needed relief soon, but not at the docks. After a 2017 disaster declaration for the 2015-16 Dungie season, Congress has finally included a budgetary appropriation to release those funds.
"We called on Congress to step up and provide fishery disaster assistance, and today they delivered. West Coast fishermen express their heartfelt gratitude to key senators and members of Congress who fought hard for their constituents," said Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations Executive Director Noah Oppenheim.
In 2017, outgoing Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker finalized disaster declarations for nine salmon and crab fisheries in Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Dungeness fleets in California, Oregon and Washington were sidelined by a widespread algal bloom that left the stock tainted with domoic acid.
The federal budget bill, expected to pass this week, includes $200 million for those disasters declared in 2017 and any to be declared as a result of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
"Fishery disasters don't flood cities or burn down houses, but they do devastate coastal communities and threaten the fishing way of life,” Oppenheim said. “These fishery disaster appropriations will go a long way towards beginning the healing process for hundreds of working fishing families on the West Coast."
Fishery disaster funds will likely be allocated by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, according to demonstrated need.