US Commerce Declares Fishing Disasters for 7 States

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has declared fishing disasters for seven states on three coasts.

“Fishing is the cornerstone of countless coastal economies and has been a way of life for generations of Americans,” he said in a brief news release Wednesday. “This determination acknowledges the critical role fisheries play in our communities, and the risks they face from natural disasters and other causes beyond their control.”

Ross’ action makes people and businesses eligible for NOAA fisheries disaster assistance. Congress has appropriated $165 million for such help for fiscal 2019 and the Commerce Department decides allocations to eligible fisheries, the statement said.

The statement said a regional disaster occurred for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama because of “extreme flooding events in the Gulf of Mexico.” Alaska and California each had multiple requests approved; one for both Georgia and South Carolina will help shrimpers and shrimp processors. An unusually cold spell in January 2018 killed the vast majority of shrimp overwintering in estuaries, Erin Weeks, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, said in an email.

California requests for the red sea urchin and sardine fisheries were approved, Jordan Traverso, spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in an email. Ross also approved a request from the Yurok Tribe of Klamath, California, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokeswoman Kristin Brown said in an email. Tribal Chairman Joseph L. James’ letter to Ross in February said last year was the third in a row that the tribe hasn’t been able to catch enough Chinook salmon from the Klamath River to sell any.

The Pacific sardine fishery has been closed since 2015, California Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote Ross in June. A disaster was declared for the first two years; Wednesday’s action brings it up through 2019.