Bonamici, DeFazio, Blumenauer, Schrader, Brown Help Secure Disaster Funding for Salmon Fisheries
WASHINGTON—Oregon Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, and Kurt Schrader joined Governor Kate Brown in celebrating today’s announcement that the Department of Commerce will provide disaster relief to struggling West Coast fisheries.
“I’m proud to have helped secure this much-needed, long-overdue relief for Oregon’s fisheries” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04). “These funds will allow commercial fishermen to keep their businesses afloat while helping to maintain a major economic engine for Oregon’s coastal communities.”
Oregon’s commercial salmon fisheries were devastated by poor seasons in 2016 and 2017, when they saw more than a 70 percent decline in salmon landings compared to the five-year average. Fishing communities in Oregon have been waiting for the Department of Commerce to act since May 2017, when Governor Brown requested that the Department make an expedited declaration of a fishery disaster under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act. Bonamici, DeFazio, Blumenauer, and Schrader helped secure the disaster aid by calling on Secretary Wilbur Ross to declare a fishery disaster.
“Declaring a disaster will allow hard-hit communities that depend on fisheries revenue and jobs to seek federal assistance and begin the recovery process,” Bonamici, DeFazio, Blumenauer, and Schrader wrote in the letter. “In the past, a federal disaster has been declared for comparable seasons. Despite considerable federal and state investment in salmon recovery, many factors outside of managers’ control, including drought and changing ocean conditions, continue to impede salmon populations. These poor salmon seasons have damaged the already distressed communities that rely on the commercial fishing industry.”
“When I visited the South Coast last year in the wake of two simultaneous disasters, the Chetco Bar Fire on land and the salmon season closure at sea, the people who live there made it clear to me that help was needed,” said Governor Kate Brown. “Salmon are a vital component of Oregon’s natural resources and provide significant commercial, recreational, economic, and aesthetic benefits to all of Oregon. The closure of the 2017 salmon season had severe effects on already distressed rural communities on the Oregon Coast, as well as the businesses across the state that depend upon these fisheries. In late 2017, I requested a disaster declaration noting millions of dollars of losses in these vital Oregon communities and fisheries. A year after we requested the declaration, my office had heard nothing back from Washington D.C. But, my staff and I continued to fight for the disaster declaration into 2018. Thankfully, yesterday morning, Secretary Ross helped Oregon make a huge step forward for our rural communities. I want to thank the Oregon congressional delegation, the Coastal Caucus, and coastal leaders for their assistance in pursuing relief for these communities.”
“The Oregon Salmon Commission wants to thank the Department of Commerce for acknowledging the 2016 and 2017 commercial fishery failure in the ocean troll salmon fisheries in both Oregon and California,” said Nancy Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Oregon Salmon Commission. “Financial assistance will be greatly appreciated by our fishing families. We also want to thank the Oregon Congressional delegation for their continued support of our fisheries and working with the Oregon Salmon Commission over the past year and a half to get this declaration.”
In March, Congress passed a spending bill that included $20 million for fisheries disasters nationwide. Today’s Commerce fishery disaster declaration will allow ocean troll Klamath River fall Chinook salmon fisheries in Oregon to access those funds through the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Department of Commerce is determining the appropriate allocation of the funds to eligible fisheries. The Members are committed to continuing to advocate for robust funding for West Coast fishery disasters.