Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined with California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris to push the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to act quickly and support a catastrophic regional fishery disaster declaration requested by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and California Gov. Jerry Brown.
The fishery disaster declarations have been pending since May, when the governors made a combined request after nearly 200 miles of coast 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 because of restrictions protecting Klamath River salmon stocks.
In a letter to the new NOAA assistant administrator, the senators urged urgent attention to the disaster declarations.
“In both of our states, closed or curtailed salmon fishing seasons have resulted in severe economic hardship felt throughout the seafood supply chain,” the senators wrote. “Working waterfronts have been unable to address basic repairs and upkeep. Seafood processing jobs have been lost. Fishermen have left the industry, unable to make a living on the water. These additive effects have resulted in a weakening of our coastal communities which, if not provided for, may be lost.”
The closure affects nearly half of Oregon’s coastline, causing economic distress for already struggling coastal communities. In California, it is expected to result in a loss of $2.5 million in revenue. Both states were hard-hit by a poor 2016 season, which resulted in millions in lost revenue.
“We strongly support these disaster declaration requests, which would make salmon fisheries in Oregon and California eligible for aid to relieve some of the losses sustained during poor 2016 and 2017 salmon seasons, as well as provide job retraining, employment, and low interest loans,” the senators wrote. “The disaster declaration also allows funds to go towards making fisheries more resilient through fishery data collection, resource restoration, research, and fishing capacity reduction programs to prevent or lessen the effects of future disruptions to fisheries.”
The senators are pushing for a fishery disaster declaration before the end of the year.