Senators push for regional fishery disaster declaration

Several Oregon and California senators are pushing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to immediately support Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and California Gov. Jerry Brown’s catastrophic regional fishery disaster declaration.

The disaster declarations have been pending since May after nearly 200 miles of coastline in Oregon and California were closed to salmon fishing due to dwindling Klamath River salmon runs.

Additionally, the fishing season was less than half as long as a typical year due to restrictions protecting Klamath River salmon stocks.

Pushing for the declaration are Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris

“In both of our states, (these) fishing seasons have resulted in severe economic hardships felt throughout the seafood supply chain,” the senators wrote. “Working waterfronts can’t address basic repairs and upkeep. Seafood processing jobs have been lost. Fishermen have left the industry, unable to make a living on the water. This has weakened our coastal communities which, if not provided for, might be lost.”

The closure affects nearly half of Oregon’s coastline. California’s industry is expected to lose $2.5 million in revenue. Both states were also hard-hit by a poor 2016 season, which resulted in millions more lost.

The disaster declaration would make salmon fisheries eligible for aid, including job retraining, employment, and low-interest loans. It could also provide funds for fishery data collection, resource restoration, research, and fishing capacity reduction programs to prevent or reduce the effects of future disruptions to fisheries.

The senators seek a declaration by the end of the year.