Washington's senators call for salmon, crab fishing seasons to be declared “disasters”
Several commercial fisheries on the U.S. West Coast should be declared disasters, a move that would make federal funds available to those affected by poor fishing seasons, United States senators representing Washington state said.
Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell called for a declaration of commercial fisheries failures for six pending fishery disaster requests, in a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
“Fishing communities up and down Washington’s coast have suffered through several years of lower-than-expected catch. A federal fishery disaster declaration would make communities eligible for funding for projects such as fisheries recovery, job training, and infrastructure investments in the communities hardest hit,” the senators said in a statement.
Washington’s maritime industry supports almost 60,000 jobs directly and contributes USD 30 billion (EUR 28 billion) in economic activity each year, not including the shipbuilders, hotels, restaurants, manufacturers, and outfitters that benefit indirectly, they said. The senators stated that fisheries are also of tremendous significance to the state’s tribal fishermen, who have been harvesting fish on Washington’s coast for thousands of years.
“Prompt declaration of these disasters will help meet the needs of communities struggling as a result of these disasters,” Senators Murray and Cantwell said.
The outstanding requests currently before the Department of Commerce include: 2015 and 2016 statewide coho salmon, 2015 Dungeness crab, 2015 South Puget Sound coho salmon, 2015 Grays Harbor coho salmon and 2014 Fraser River sockeye salmon.
For the 2015-2016 season, most of the California coast was closed for Dungeness crab fishing through March, costing the fishery tens of millions of dollars in lost sales, and the season was delayed in both Washington and Oregon due to toxic algae.
Then in May, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed all of Puget Sound and some lakes and rivers on 1 May, after state and tribal fishery managers could not agree on a joint plan for the 2016-17 Puget Sound salmon fishing season.