Disaster funding granted to Gulf of Mexico fisheries hit by spillway opening

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the allocation of USD 88 million (EUR 80.6 million) in disaster-relief funding to Gulf of Mexico fisheries in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi to counter the impacts of the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

The Bonnet Carre Spillway is a flood control system for the Lower Mississippi Valley, with its opening releasing massive amounts of freshwater from the river into the Gulf of Mexico. In April, the spillway was opened for the third straight year, something that has never happened in the spillway’s history.

Those openings have taken a toll on fisheries in the region, with sharply depressed landings of oysters, shrimp, crab, and finfish. Louisiana alone suffered an estimated USD 258 million (EUR 236 million) in losses from multiple spillway openings in 2019 – the first time the Bonnet Carre Spillway had ever been opened more than once in a year. Gulf lawmakers have been pressing for relief in light of the damage to livelihoods in the region.

Now, some relief will be coming to fisheries in the region for those multiple openings in 2019.

“The Department of Commerce stands with our U.S. fishing communities, especially in times of hardship,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a release announcing the funding. “These funds will help industries and individuals recover from this disaster, and build resilience for the future.”

According to the release, the funds can be used for a range of impacts, “impacts to commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, charter businesses, subsistence users, processors, shore-side infrastructure, and the fishing ecosystem and environment.”

The release of water from the spillway has been estimated to have caused more than USD 500 million (EUR 458 million) in damage to the seafood industry in the three states awarded funds. 

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia


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