Disaster Declared for West Coast Fisheries

SEATTLE (CN) — Nine West Coast salmon and crab fisheries have been declared a disaster, allowing fishing communities to seek relief from the federal government.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared the disaster on Jan. 18.

Nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alaska, California and Washington suffered “sudden and unexpected large decreases in fish stock biomass or loss of access due to unusual ocean and climate conditions,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

The fisheries include Gulf of Alaska pink salmon, California Dungeness and rock crab, and several tribal salmon fisheries in Washington.

Alaska Governor Bill Walker asked for the declaration after last year’s dismal pink salmon runs and California Governor Jerry Brown requested aid for Dungeness and rock crab fisheries.

Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray also petitioned the Commerce Department for a disaster declaration. The senators told Pritzker that Washington’s maritime economy brings in $30 billion annually and is part of “our culture and heritage.”

Under the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Secretary of Commerce can determine a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster, which provides a basis for Congress to appropriate disaster relief.

“The Commerce Department and NOAA stand with America’s fishing communities. We are proud of the contributions they make to the nation’s economy, and we recognize the sacrifices they are forced to take in times of environmental hardship,” Samuel D. Rauch III, deputy assistant administrator for regulatory programs at NOAA, said in a statement.

“We are committed to helping these communities recover and achieve success in the future.”

Congress will have to approve the funds, which are disbursed through federal grants.

Here are the fisheries eligible to apply for disaster relief.

Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fisheries (2016)

In California:

California Dungeness and rock crab fishery (2015-2016)

Yurok Tribe Klamath River Chinook salmon fishery (2016)

In Washington:

Fraser River Makah Tribe and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sockeye salmon fisheries (2014)

Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay non-treaty coho salmon fishery (2015)

Nisqually Indian Tribe, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, and Squaxin Island Tribe South Puget Sound salmon fisheries (2015)

Quinault Indian Nation Grays Harbor and Queets River coho salmon fishery (2015)

Quileute Tribe Dungeness crab fishery (2015-2016)

Ocean salmon troll fishery (2016)