Senators seek disaster aid for Oregon fishery

The U.S. senators of Oregon and California have requested the U.S. Department of Commerce issue federal salmon fishery disaster to support economic recovery for coastal communities.

In April, the ocean salmon season was called off due to drought in California that resulted in low, warm waters that prompted the growth of a parasite that kills salmon.

With no salmon season — and a mediocre crab season this winter — fishermen are starting to feel the pinch.

Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined California Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein in a letter asking for a disaster declaration. Such a declaration enables those affected to receive funding to maintain the fishing industry.

“Salmon are a vital part of our region’s history, economy and culture,” the letter reads. “This disaster declaration will provide a much-needed safety net to keep fishermen in business, communities afloat and the industry open for business until salmon stocks are restored.”

Restoring salmon stocks could take time. Now that salmon runs have failed to meet minimum numbers for the third year in a row, a management plan will have to be put in place to help revitalize it.

“Continued decline in salmon populations has had devastating impacts on fishing communities along the Oregon and California coasts,” the senators wrote. “During previous coastal salmon closures, it became very clear how much the loss of salmon impacted not only the fishermen and their families, but ancillary industries, including retailers, boat-repair facilities and many others.””

Federal aid is needed to protect “good-paying jobs and vital fishing industries” in both states, the letter reads.

The senators continued to say Oregon had four disaster declarations between 2006 and 2016, with last year’s recreational catch down 75 percent.

Stakeholders, they wrote, “are asking about assistance options.”