NOAA Fisheries issues disaster declaration for two California salmon fisheries

A photo of a chinook salmon

NOAA Fisheries has determined a fishery took place in two California salmon fisheries, clearing the path for the fishing industry in those areas to receive financial relief. The U.S. Small Business Administration is also offering low-interest federal disaster loans to businesses affected by the closure.

In April 2023, California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis requested fishery disaster determinations for the Sacramento River Fall chinook fishery and the Klamath River fall chinook, ocean, and inland salmon fisheries. 

“A host of factors have pushed these iconic and important fisheries to the point of collapse, including prolonged and historic drought, severe wildfires, impacts to spawning and rearing habitat, harmful algal blooms, and ocean forage shifts and associated thiamine deficiency. Extreme climate disruption is compounding these factors and is now testing the resiliency of our salmon,” Kounalakis wrote in April. “Those factors, culminating in the anticipated closure of SRFC and KRFC commercial and recreational fisheries, will have severe and long-lasting effects on already distressed coastal communities and the businesses that depend upon these fisheries.”

The Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended a full closure of the state’s 2023 commercial and recreational chinook salmon fisheries in April following low stock abundance forecasts.

“This decision, while difficult, is intended to allow salmon to recover in order to provide future fishing opportunities," California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham said at the time. “The state is committed to ensuring long-term survival of our salmon runs and supporting our struggling fishing communities. We are looking into all possible options to bring relief as soon as possible to fishing businesses to addresses costs incurred to maintain their commercial licenses and lost revenue when the season is entirely closed.”

The governor’s office projected that the 2023 season closure would result in losses of more than USD 45 million (EUR 42 million).

NOAA Fisheries approved the state’s request for a fishery disaster determination on 21 November.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) also declared a disaster at the end of the November and will be offering federal loans to businesses affected by the closure.

“SBA’s mission-driven team stands ready to help California’s small businesses impacted by the Salmon Fishery Closure,” SBA Administrator Isabella Guzma saidn. “We’re committed to providing federal disaster loans swiftly and efficiently, with a customer-centric approach to help these businesses.”

“Small nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations of any size may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to USD 2 million [EUR 1.8 million] to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred,” SBA Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience Associate Administrator Francisco Sánchez said. “These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Kevin Cass


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