Wicker, Cantwell Reintroduce Fishery Disasters Bill

March 17, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., ranking member and chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today reintroduced legislation to reform the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)’s Fishery Resource Disaster Relief program of the National Marine Fisheries Service. This legislation, the Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement Act, will make improvements to provide fishermen with disaster relief more quickly.

“I have met with local officials and seen firsthand how extensive flooding in Mississippi has created an economic and environmental emergency for my state and its coastal fisheries,” said Wicker. “Freshwater has devastated our seafood industry and spurred the growth of Harmful Algal Blooms, further hurting our coastal economy. This legislation would expedite the process by which fishermen receive disaster relief. I hope my colleagues will move quickly to pass this bill and help our fishermen.”

“In Washington, fisheries are a cornerstone of our maritime economy. Its related businesses and seafood processors, ship builders, gear manufacturers, support 60 percent of our maritime economy, which is about 146,000 jobs and 30 billion in economic activity,” said Cantwell. “Washington has experienced 17 fishery disasters since 1992, including crab, groundfish, and salmon. There are several pending fishery disaster determinations for my state, and our bipartisan bill includes deadlines to ensure that those fishery disasters are elevated and declared in a reasonable timeframe. Fishermen are tired of waiting.”

The Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement Act would:

  • Maintain the authority of the Secretary of Commerce to determine the existence of a fishery disaster, after which the Secretary would make funds available to be used by state or regional groups to assess the impacts of the disaster and conduct other activities that support fishing activity;
  • Assign a 120-day timeline for the Secretary to evaluate a request, either upon receipt or immediately after the close of the fishery season; and
  • List the eligible uses of fishery disaster relief funds, including direct payments to affected members of the fishing community, habitat restoration and conservation, management improvements, job training, public information campaigns, and preventative measures for future disasters. It would prioritize hiring fishermen displaced by the fishery disaster for these tasks. 

To read the full bill, click here