Reps. Huffman & Speier Introduce Bills to Aid Struggling Fishermen; Urge Gov. Brown to Declare 2017 Disaster
Washington, D.C.- Congress is refusing to provide disaster relief assistance to California’s hard-hit fishing communities this week, but Representatives Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Jackie Speier (D- Hillsborough) are not giving up the fight.
The California fishing industry has suffered significant losses over the last two fishing seasons and faces yet another curtailed salmon season in 2017. These fishermen and fishery- related business owners are thus eligible for federal fishery disaster relief funding. Despite inaction by Congressional leadership in the face of these economic losses, Huffman and Speier are introducing a package of two bills to appropriate nearly $140 million in federal disaster assistance to those affected by the 2015-2016 California fishery disasters.
Representatives Huffman and Speier also today urged Governor Jerry Brown to ask the Secretary of Commerce to declare a Chinook salmon fishery disaster for the 2017 season.
“Hardworking fishermen and coastal economies along the North Coast are experiencing real economic hardship from several disastrous fishing seasons in a row, causing these fishermen to miss boat payments or even decide to leave their fishing business altogether,” said Rep. Huffman. “They have played by the rules, and the state and federal governments have agreed that they’re eligible for financial relief, but now that the money is owed Congress has fallen down on the job. We have a responsibility to these fishing communities to keep up the fight until Congress delivers the money.”
“Fishermen have suffered through several disastrous seasons, and deserve a lifeline,” said Rep. Speier. “Our bill is designed to help these hard working men and women stay in business. The entire West Coast depends on fishing communities for healthy, sustainable seafood and we must help them back from the brink of economic devastation.”
“California's small boat, community-based commercial crab and salmon fishermen are the backbone of our coastal economy,” said Noah Oppenheim, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “The new realities of climate change and a warming ocean have already struck multi-million dollar blows to our industry. We want to provide healthy, American seafood to consumers across the country, but without disaster relief we will continue to struggle to make ends meet. Commercial fishermen from San Diego to Crescent City applaud Representatives Speier and Huffman for introducing these bills and we encourage all California Representatives to join them in this critical effort to support working fishing families.”
Rep. Huffman will be leading the introduction of the Yurok Tribe Klamath River Chinook Salmon Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2017 to assist the Yurok tribe, while Rep. Speier will introduce the Crab Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2017 to assist fishing communities hurt by the Dungeness and rock crab fishery disasters. The Representatives will be cosponsoring both bills.
The Yurok Tribe Klamath River Chinook Salmon Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2017:
· Appropriates $22.45 million for disaster assistance to the Yurok Tribe for the 2016 Yurok Tribe Klamath River Chinook salmon fishery disaster.
· Of the $22.45 million, $14.45 would provide assistance for the support of local Yurok fishing communities affected by the fisheries failure, and $6 million would be used for the restoration and monitoring of salmon habitat, to prevent a similar fishery failure occurring in the future.
The Crab Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2017:
· Appropriates $117.39 million for disaster assistance to California Dungeness and rock crab fishermen and related businesses to be distributed by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission;
· Investigates the root cause of the crab fishery disasters by designating $1 million for West Coast domoic acid sampling and monitoring, and $5 million for competitive grants distributed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for research on harmful algal bloom prediction and domoic acid toxicity.
Following the fishery disaster process laid out in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, unused funds will be returned to the U.S. Treasury. The Secretary of Commerce declared these 2015-2016 fishery disasters in January 2017, making them eligible for federal funding, but the funds must now be provided by Congress.