Individuals and businesses affected by the 2015-16 closure of California’s commercial Dungeness crab season will see $25.8 million in federal disaster assistance, Del Norte County’s congressional representative announced Wednesday.
The Yurok Tribe, whose 2016 commercial chinook season was also declared a disaster, will see $3.9 million, according to a press release from Congressman Jared Huffman.
Both fisheries were among nine that were declared a disaster by then-U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker in January 2017. Pritzker declared the 2015-16 Dungeness season and the 2016 Yurok chinook season disasters after California Gov. Jerry Brown and Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke Sr. sent letters outlining the economic impacts the closures had on the community.
“For far too long, the North Coast has been waiting for this federal support to relieve the economic burden from several disastrous fishing seasons,” Huffman said in a written statement Wednesday. “Congress provided this fishery disaster funding and I’m glad that it is finally being delivered to communities in need. I know that the path to recovery for our fishing communities is long, but I’m grateful to see that some help is finally on the way.”
The $25.8 million allocation for the Dungeness crab fishery and the $3.9 million allocation for the Yurok 2016 chinook season is part of a $200 million bipartisan budget deal that passed Congress in February.
Huffman led a group of bipartisan lawmakers in urging current Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to provide allocations for the Pacific Coast fisheries disasters.
In February, Huffman, along with California Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Alaska Congressman Don Young, drafted a letter pointing out that many fisheries named in the Jan. 18, 2017 disaster declaration have not improved. Twenty-two other representatives signed the letter, including California Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.
Fishery disaster funding was also distributed on Wednesday to Alaska, Washington and states and territories affected by hurricanes in 2017, according to Huffman’s press release.
The 2015-16 Dungeness crab season in Del Norte and Humboldt counties was delayed about five months due to unsafe levels of domoic acid in the meat and viscera. The commercial season didn’t open until May 12, 2016.
The Dungeness crab 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.
Meanwhile, two years of record-low chinook salmon runs on the Klamath River prompted the Yurok Tribe to cancel its commercial fishery in 2016, according to the tribe. In his letter to Pritzker, O’Rourke said some tribal fishermen faced a complete loss of annual income due to the closure.