Pink salmon fishery declared federal disaster

Nine commercial fisheries nationwide, including the pink salmon fishery in the Gulf of Alaska, have been declared a disaster by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, clearing the way for disaster relief assistance from Congress.

Also listed were California’s Dungeness and rock crab fishery, and the Yurok Tribe Klamath River Chinook salmon fishery, plus six other mostly tribal salmon and crab fisheries in Washington State.

“We are committed to helping these communities recover and achieve success in the future,” said Sam Rauch III, deputy assistant administrator for regulatory programs at NOAA Fisheries.

Under the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the commerce secretary can determine a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster, which then provides a basis for Congress to appropriate disaster relief funds for economic assistance to affected fishing communities impacted by the disaster.

If Congress does appropriate funds to address these failures, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration works closely with Congress and affected states and tribes to develop a spending plan to support activities to restore the fishery, prevent a similar failure, and assist affected communities.

Commerce Department officials advise, however, that there is no legislative deadline and no standing fund, or established funding limit, for such disasters.

According to the law, Congress must appropriate funds for fishery disaster relief.

Once Congress does that, disaster funding is distributed to eligible entities through the federal grant process.

To receive the grant, the recipients of the funds, in partnership with NOAA Fisheries, must develop a spending plan and grant application based on high priority needs in the community, and submit the plan to NOAA Fisheries.

NOAA Fisheries spokesman John Ewald said the agency had no information at this time about funding levels for specific disasters.

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Margaret Bauman is a veteran Alaska journalist focused on covering fisheries and environmental issues. Bauman has been writing for The Cordova Times since 2010. You can reach her at