Alaska, Washington State To Receive More Than $220 Million In Fisheries Disaster Relief

The following press release is courtesy of Senators Maria Cantrell (D-Washington) and Patty Murray (D-Washington State)

Murray, Cantwell Announce More Than $220 Million in Fishery Disaster Assistance Relief Coming to Washington, Alaska

Washington- and Alaska-based crab fisheries have lost an estimated $287.7 million due to harvest cancellations

ICYMI: Murray & Cantwell secure inclusion for fishery disaster assistance in FY23 omnibus bill

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced more than $220 million in disaster assistance for fishing families impacted by cancelled crab and salmon harvests between 2019 and 2022.

The funding was included in the Murray-led and Cantwell-supported Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus spending bill after the senators urged Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to make federal fishery disasters declarations for the 2022-2023 Bering Sea snow crab, the 2022-2023 Bristol Bay red king crab, and the 2021-2022 Bristol Bay red king crab fisheries.

“Crab and salmon harvests are critical to the livelihoods of thousands of Washington state families and local economies across the Pacific Northwest,” said Senator Murray. “Our fishermen and small businesses have been grappling with disasters that have hit year after year and they need all the help they can get. Securing these federal dollars in the end-of-year spending package was a top priority for me and I’m thrilled this money is getting out the door and into the hands of those who need it.”

“For the fishing families and Tribes that rely on salmon and Alaskan crab harvests in order to make ends meet, weathering multiple back-to-back seasons of poor returns amounts to a disaster,” said Senator Cantwell. “Keeping fisherman afloat, coupled with investments to restore habitat and understand stock declines, will help us maintain one of our state’s most vital industries.”

The Department of Commerce recently announced federal fishery disasters for the following harvests:

  1. 2021/2022 Alaska Bristol Bay Red King Crab and Bering Sea Snow Crab Fisheries
  2. 2019 Washington Columbia River, Willapa Bay, Puget Sound Salmon Fisheries
  3. 2020 Washington Ocean Salmon Fisheries
  4. 2021 Alaska Kuskokwim River Salmon and Norton Sound Chum and Coho Salmon Fisheries
  5. 2021 Chignik Salmon Fisheries
  6. 2020 Copper River/Prince William Sound Coho and Pink Salmon Fisheries
  7. 2020/2021 Alaska Norton Sound Red King Crab Fisheries
  8. 2022/2023 Alaska Bristol Bay Red King Crab and Bering Sea Snow Crab Fisheries

Cancellations of the 2022/2023 Bering Sea snow crab, the 2022/2023 Bristol Bay red king crab, and the 2021/2022 Bristol Bay red king crab harvests have caused an estimated $287.7 million in economic losses for fisheries.

Poor salmon returns for the 2019 Columbia River, Willapa Bay, and Puget Sound Fisheries resulted in ex-vessel values, which is the value of the commercial catch, for Washington’s statewide salmon fisheries of 37 percent compared to the recent five-year average. In certain areas, fisheries saw reductions in salmon returns of over 65 percent of the five-year average.

Cancellations of the 2020 Washington Ocean Salmon Fisheries, which impacted non-Tribal ocean catch quotas for Chinook and coho salmon, resulted in revenue losses of 50 percent based on preliminary data. For the ocean salmon troll fishery, the total ex-vessel value was $1.1 million, which is 46 percent of the average from the previous five years.

State Governors, Tribes, or a representative of an affected fishing community can apply to receive disaster funding through the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fishery Disaster Assistance program. After the Secretary of Commerce declares a federal fisheries disaster, and the Congress appropriates funding, impacted fishing families, associated businesses, and others may apply to NOAA or fish commission for financial relief.

The final omnibus legislation, passed last December, also included the Fishery Resource Disaster Improvement Act, which was reintroduced by Senator Cantwell in March of 2021. The bill will make improvements to NOAA’s Fishery Resource Disaster Relief program of the National Marine Fisheries Service and speed up the process for Tribes, fishing families, and associated businesses to receive disaster relief. The bill will also expand eligible uses of disaster funding, to ensure Washington state priorities such as hatchery infrastructure, job training, and habitat restoration are eligible. It will also cut red tape to help Tribes receive funding directly from the federal government.

A full list of awarded funds are below:

Fishery DisasterAward 
2022/2023 Alaska Bering Sea Crab Fisheries $96,621,465
2020 Alaska Copper River/Prince William Sound Salmon Fisheries $15,730,357
2021 Alaska Kuskokwim River and 2021 Alaska Norton Sound Salmon Fisheries $1,268,317
2020 and 2021 Alaska Norton Sound Red King Crab Fisheries*$2,804,214
2021/2022 Alaska Bering Sea Crab Fisheries$94,489,726
2021 Alaska Chignik Salmon Fishery$4,989,902
2020 Washington Ocean Salmon Fisheries$3,455,150
2019 Washington Columbia River, Willapa Bay,
Puget Sound Salmon Fisheries