Unusual ocean and climate conditions have significantly reduced the number of fish available for American Indian tribes and commercial fleets to catch. That’s led to the federal government’s declaration that six fisheries in the state can now seek assistance to help bring things back to normal.
Back in December, U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray petitioned the federal government to get some help with fisheries that have seen sudden decreases in fish numbers.
Over several years, unexpected decreases in fishery stocks can have serious economic consequences for people who depend on catching fish for their livelihoods and for food.
“Commercial, recreational, charter and tribal fisheries are an integral part of Washington’s maritime economy, as well as our culture and heritage,” the senators wrote in a letter calling for the fishery disaster determination.
The Washington fisheries received a fisheries disaster designation from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Thursday after unusual ocean and climate conditions caused a severe drop in the amount of fish people were able to catch. The fisheries include:
- Fraser River Makah Tribe and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sockeye salmon fisheries
- Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay non-treaty coho salmon fishery
- Nisqually Indian Tribe, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, and Squaxin Island Tribe South Puget Sound salmon fisheries
- Quinault Indian Nation Grays Harbor and Queets River coho salmon fishery
- Quileute Tribe Dungeness crab fishery
- Ocean salmon troll fishery
Now that the six fisheries have been named commercial fishery failures, Congress may provide money for disaster relief. The funds would be distributed by NOAA Fisheries.
“We recognize the sacrifices [fishing communities] are forced to take in times of environmental hardship,” said Samuel D. Rauch III, NOAA Fisheries deputy assistant administrator for regulatory programs, in a press release. “We are committed to helping these communities recover and achieve success in the future.”
The disaster relief money could help provide economic assistance to fishing communities. Funds could also help to recover fisheries and prevent future fish stock problems.
Commercial fisheries failures were also determined for salmon and crab fisheries in California and Alaska.