North Carolina facing a federal fishery resources disaster, governor says

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has called on the U.S. Department of Commerce for additional resources and funding to help mitigate the damages weathered by the state’s fisheries in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

Cooper urged the Department of Commerce to declare a federal fishery resources disaster for North Carolina in a letter sent to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Such a declaration would provide aid and long-term relief to families relying on North Carolina’s recreational and commercial fisheries, according to Cooper.

“This was the storm of a lifetime for many coastal communities. The damaging economic impact to the state’s fisheries was, and continues to be, significant. While state appropriations will begin to afford some limited initial relief, much more is needed,” Cooper wrote in the letter. 

North Carolina’s coastal communities are reliant on marine fisheries, Cooper said, in terms of both the local economy and employment. In 2017, commercial fishing was responsible for more than USD 96 million (EUR 84 million) in revenue and supported hundreds of jobs, according to findings from the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. 

These economy-fueling marine fisheries were left “devastated” by “Hurricane Florence’s historic rainfall, brutal winds, and powerful storm surge,” Cooper said. Fishing grounds were compromised, and boats and gear were damaged and destroyed as a result of the storm, he added. Additionally, shellfish harvests have been suspended in affected areas, “[costing] fishermen critical income.” 

While recovery efforts are already ongoing, North Carolina’s fisheries need more help, Cooper said. 

“Federal fisheries disaster assistance can provide the means to a longer-term recovery that North Carolinian fishermen so desperately need,” he wrote.

Last month, Cooper requested that state legislators allocate USD 12 million (EUR million) toward relief funding for North Carolina’s fisheries affected by the disaster; USD 1.6 million (EUR million) of that request was provided by the North Carolina’s legislature to the Division of Marine Fisheries. Those funds are being used to “compensate commercial fishermen and shellfish harvesters for equipment and income loss,” Cooper said in a press release. 

Image courtesy of the Associated Press


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