Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has declared commercial fishery failures for nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alaska, California and Washington State. Commerce officials noted that in recent years each of these fisheries experienced sudden and unexpected large decreases in fish stock biomass due to unusual ocean and climate conditions.
Pritzker’s decision will enable fishing communities to seek disaster relief assistance from Congress, they said.
The list includes the Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fisheries, plus the California Dungeness and rock crab fishery and Yurok Tribe Klamath River Chinook salmon fishery. The six Washington fisheries include Fraser River Makah Tribe and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sockeye salmon fisheries; Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay non-treaty coho salmon fishery, ocean salmon troll fishery, the Quileute-Tribe Dungeness crab fishery, Quinault Indian Nation Grays Harbor and Queets River coho salmon fishery and four other South Puget Sound tribal salmon fisheries.
Pritzker has authority under the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to determine a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster.
Congress then has authority to appropriate funds to provide economic assistance to affected fishing communities. Grant recipients then must work in partnership with NOAA Fisheries to develop a spending plan and grant application based on high priority needs in the community, and submit that plan to NOAA Fisheries.
According to the Commerce Department, there is no legislative deadline and no standing fund, or established funding limit, for such disasters.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker had appealed to the Commerce Department in late September to declare the Gulf of Alaska fishery a disaster, after urging by State House member Louise Stutes of Kodiak, who noted that not just harvesters, but whole communities were affected by the dismal harvest.