More than $29.6 million in federal assistance will be delivered on June 1 to communities affected by the delay in the 2015-16 Dungeness crab fishery and to the Yurok Tribe for the collapse of the Klamath River fall chinook salmon fishery in 2016.
Congressman Jared Huffman, who represents Del Norte County, and his colleague, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) announced Monday that $29.65 million in federal disaster assistance will be delivered to North Coast fishing communities.
The federal disaster assistance funding stems from a February 2016 declaration made by then-California Gov. Jerry Brown and a July 2016 letter from then-Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O'Rourke Sr. to former U.S. Secretary Penny Pritzker.
Pritzker named the 2015-16 California Dungeness and rock crab fishery and the 2016 Yurok Tribe Klamath River fall chinook fishery in a Jan. 18, 2017 disaster declaration. In a written statement Monday, Huffman said Congress provided the disaster relief funding more than a year ago, but "the Trump administration has dragged out the process."
"Their delays and roadblocks have added unnecessary pain for the tribes and fishing communities who are already dealing with closed fisheries and serious economic hardships," Huffman said.
Speier noted while the disaster relief dollars won't end challenges for fishermen, "it will at least help them to stay in an industry that is shaping our coastal communities."
In February 2018, Congress appropriated $200 million in disaster dollars for fishery failures declared nationwide in 2017, which also included salmon and crab fisheries in Washington and Alaska. That funding was provided to the Department of Commerce with congressional leaders calling on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to appropriate that aid quickly.
On Monday, Amy Cordalis, the Yurok Tribe's general counsel and a traditional salmon fisher, said disaster relief dollars will help those who rely on the tribe's commercial fishery and who haven't earned a paycheck in three years due to the collapse of the Klamath River salmon population.
"In addition to canceling our commercial fishery, we have not had enough salmon to meet our subsistence needs for the past three years," Cordalis said. "The absence of fish has put a tremendous strain on the Yurok community."
When the Dungeness season didn't open until May 12, 2016, the California fishery reported a loss of $48.3 million statewide, representing 71 percent of the total estimated commercial value for Dungeness crab between Nov. 6, 2015 and June 30, 2016.
The Crescent City Harbor, which gets two cents for every pound of crab brought into the port, received less than $22,000 during the 2015-16 crab season. In an April 2018 Triplicate article, Deputy Harbormaster Lane Tavasci said an average season generates about $48,000 for the harbor.