House members file bill to expedite fishery disaster determination process

A bipartisan group from Congress is looking to cap the time federal officials have to make a determination on fishery disaster requests.

On Tuesday, 7 January, U.S. Representatives Jared Huffman (D-California) and Steven Palazzo (R-Mississippi) introduced the “Fishery Failures: Urgently Needed Disaster Declarations Act,” or Fishery FUNDD Act.

The bill would give the U.S. Commerce Secretary 120 days from either the receipt of the request or the close of the fishery season to consider the request. It also gives the government 90 days to begin disbursing funds.

It also allows for direct payments to affected members of an affected fishery’s community. Funding would also go toward habitat restoration, job training, public information campaigns, and measures to prevent future disasters.

In a statement, Huffman said many communities rely on fisheries, and disasters can have long-ranging effects on them. The legislation will help make those communities and fisheries more resilient.

“This bill will help make federal agencies more responsive to communities who have suffered a fishery disaster, while we continue to work in Congress to deliver the needed funds,” Huffman said.

The House bill comes two months after the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted to approve, with amendments, a similar bill that’s sponsored by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), the committee’s chairman, and the ranking minority member, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).

Last year, officials from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama sought disaster relief after record amounts of freshwater from the Bonnet Carré Spillway reached the Gulf of Mexico. The freshwater helped fuel a dead zone within the gulf that decimated shrimp and oyster fisheries.

“While Mississippi’s federal fisheries disaster declaration was approved within several months, this is unfortunately not the case for other communities around the nation. The Fishery FUNDD Act will streamline what has been a years-long process into a transparent system that will provide disaster relief to fishermen who have experienced harsh conditions out of their control,” Palazzo said.

The bill is also co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-Washington) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington).

Photo courtesy of United States Congress/Jared Huffman


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