Spending bill includes disaster relief funds for Dungeness crab, salmon fisheries

It took a little longer than expected, but U.S. Congressional leaders shepherded through another short-term spending bill early Friday morning, 9 February, that included millions in funding for fishery-related disaster relief efforts.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will receive USD 400 million (EUR 326.2 million) in funding, with USD 200 million (EUR 163.1 million) going to aid fisheries impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria as well as other disasters that were declared last year. That includes nine West Coast salmon and Dungeness crab fisheries, whose operations in 2015 and 2016 were impacted by a widespread algal bloom that tainted the stocks.

Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, told National Fisherman that his group called on Congress to protect those affected by the disaster. 

“Fishery disasters don’t flood cities or burn down houses, but they do devastate coastal communities and threaten the fishing way of life,” he said. “These fishery disaster appropriations will go a long way towards beginning the healing process for hundreds of working fishing families on the West Coast.”

Other fish-related items in the bill include: earmarking USD 210.6 million (EUR 171.8 million) for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rebuild facilities and infrastructure damaged by recent hurricanes and wildfires, and lifting the annual USD 20 million (EUR 16.3 million) spending cap on the Department of Agriculture’s emergency assistance program for livestock, honey bees, and farm-raised fish.

The House initially approved the USD 81 billion (EUR 66.1 billion) relief package in December, and when Senate Republican and Democratic leaders negotiated the budget agreement, they included the disaster relief spending in their proposal.

The bill cleared the Senate around 1:30 a.m. local time in Washington and passed the House about four hours later. The delay was due to a protest by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who opposed the bill because of its effect on the federal deficit. That delay also led to a brief shutdown of the government, as the last temporary spending bill ended at midnight. 

As a result, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management posted on its website that federal employees should contact their agencies on whether they should report to work Friday.

President Donald Trump announced at 8:39 a.m. via Twitter that he signed the bill into law.


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