01.12.18

Murkowski, Sullivan Seek Emergency Relief for Communities Affected by Fisheries Disasters

Alaska Fisheries Disaster Totaling $150 Million Direct Losses

As Congress considers a relief package for U.S. communities impacted by hurricanes and wildfires, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, along with a bipartisan group of senators representing Washington, Oregon, and California, called on their colleagues to also include disaster funding for coastal communities affected by longstanding and ongoing fisheries disasters.

The senators urged swift action to provide emergency funding to communities that depend on resilient, sustainable, and healthy fisheries, highlighting how important the industry is to local economies and native communities, writing:

“In Pacific coastal states, fisheries support a diverse hub of commerce including shipbuilders, hotels, restaurants, and vessel support services among others. Prolonged diminished returns in fisheries have stifled economic development, threatened the financial stability of fishing families dependent upon the industry’s vitality, and severely endangered Native American subsistence and ceremonial harvests.”  

The senators committed to working with their colleagues and other committees of jurisdiction toward a solution that brings more immediate relief, saying:

“The longer these disasters go unaddressed, the more precarious the situation becomes for communities and families impacted.”

The Senators writing the letter included Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

Read the letter in full below, or click here for the PDF.

Background: In October 2017, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan co-authored a letter raising this issue to their colleagues, urging federal fisheries disaster funding to be included in any emergency supplemental appropriations bill.

January 10, 2018 

The Honorable Thad Cochran

Chairman

Committee on Appropriations

S-128 United States Capitol

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Patrick Leahy

Vice Chairman

Committee on Appropriations

S-146A United States Capitol

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Leahy,

As the Appropriations Committee continues its work on a supplemental disaster request to aid communities in California, Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, we write to encourage you to include relief for communities affected by longstanding and ongoing fisheries disasters.  

All fisheries, including commercial, recreational, charter, and fisheries of importance to American Indians and Alaska Natives are central components in the economy and culture of many coastal communities. In Pacific coastal states, fisheries support a diverse hub of commerce including shipbuilders, hotels, restaurants, and vessel support services among others. Prolonged diminished returns in fisheries have stifled economic development, threatened the financial stability of fishing families dependent upon the industry’s vitality, and severely endangered Native American subsistence and ceremonial harvests.  

As of January 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce has declared a total of nine fisheries disasters in Alaska, California, and Washington state, with several other disaster declarations pending official designation. While complete economic impact is difficult to evaluate, NOAA Fisheries has estimated that the total direct losses for all outstanding declared fisheries disasters is equal to approximately $150 Million in Alaska, $140 Million in California, and $117 Million in Washington state. With the knowledge that these estimates may increase with subsequent declarations, we respectfully ask that these figures be used as a point of reference during consideration of any relief appropriations.  

The Senate should act swiftly to provide emergency funding to these communities whose livelihoods depend on resilient, sustainable, and healthy fisheries. Additionally, we commit to working with you and other committees of jurisdiction toward a solution that brings more immediate relief once a fisheries disaster has been declared. The longer these disasters go unaddressed, the more precarious the situation becomes for communities and families impacted.

As the Senate works to develop a robust and adequate disaster package for those affected by other natural disasters across the country, we look forward to working with you to ensure that these longstanding fisheries disasters are also included. 

We appreciate your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,