April 05, 2017

Lawmakers make a pitch for salmon disaster funds

Washington’s Congressional delegation submitted a letter Tuesday to leaders in both the House and Senate asking them to include emergency funding in the final federal fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill to provide relief for communities affected by the disastrous fishing seasons of 2014-16.

Senators Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., along with 6th District Congressman Derek Kilmer, were among the delegation that put the pressure on U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker into signing a disaster approval for nine fisheries along the west coast earlier this year. The funds, authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, are designed to help communities that rely on commercial, tribal and recreational fishing for their livelihood in the event of a shortened or just overall bad season.

Before the funds reach the pockets of fishermen and the communities they rely on, they need to be approved by Congress. The letter drafted by Northwest congressional members serves as a reminder to Congress to include the approval.

The letter is addressed to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky; and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-New York and dated April 4. It reads:

“The closures of commercial and recreational fisheries along the West Coast during the 2014, 2015 and 2016 fishing seasons caused severe economic hardship in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California. In January 2017, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined there were commercial fisheries failures for nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alska, California and Washington.”

Both tribal and nontribal fisheries are included. Notably for the region are the Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay nontreaty coho salmon fishery of 2015, the Quinault Indian Nation Grays Harbor and Queets River coho salmon fishery of 2015, and the ocean salmon troll fishery of 2016.

The letter continues, “While this declaration authorizes our communities to receive desperately needed aid, no funding is attached to such a declaration, and no funding for fishery disasters was included in either the House or Senate fiscal year 2017 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bills. The determination of a commercial fishery failure simply provides a basis for Congress to appropriate disaster relief funding to provide economic assistance to the affected fishing communities.”

The letter concludes with, “Given the severe hardships that these rural, commercial and recreational fishery-dependent communities continue to experience, we request that you include dedicated funding in the final fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill to fully address the economic damages identified … in the affected communities. Lives and livelihoods, as well as American access to domestic seafood, depends on it.”

Source: The Daily World