US senators reintroduce fishery disaster bill

Fish farmers in Mississippi (Photo: US Department of Agriculture)

US Senators Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Maria Cantwell of Washington State have reintroduced bipartisan legislation to reform the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fishery Resource Disaster Relief program of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

This legislation, known as the Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement Act, is expected to make improvements to provide fishermen with disaster relief more quickly.

The bill’s authors said the reintroduction of the legislation was done in response to: 1) coastal fisheries in Mississippi being adversely affected by recent instances of extensive flooding and algal blooms and 2) Washington’s many fishery disasters that have been occurring since 1992.

If signed into law, the 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 prioritise hiring fishermen displaced by the fishery disaster for these tasks.

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