Congressman Thompson and Senator Feinstein Call for Speedy Disaster Relief for the 2008 Salmon Season
Mar 07 2008
WASHINGTON – Today, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson with Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and 46 Senators and Representatives from California, Oregon and Washington called on Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to give Congress the authorization to distribute disaster funds to Pacific Coast commercial fishers and related businesses.
In a letter to the Secretary, the bipartisan group wrote that if the salmon season is as bad as it was in 2006, when over 90 percent of the season was closed, the Secretary should quickly declare it a federal fisheries failure so Congress can immediately get aid to affected communities. They also called on the Secretary to work closely with California, Oregon and Washington to assess the financial impacts of a limited salmon season.
"We've already seen the devastating economic effects a closed season can have on salmon fishers and related businesses, particularly in Northern California" said Congressman Thompson. "Another closed season would be an even bigger blow to the North Coast. If stocks are as low as predicted, Secretary Guitierrez must act quickly to declare the season a commercial fisheries failure so Congress can help our communities get back on their feet."
"In 2006, the Klamath fisheries suffered serious financial losses when the salmon season collapsed. Unfortunately, this year's Sacramento River salmon population is expected to be as bad as or worse than 2006," said Senator Feinstein. "So, I urge Secretary Gutierrez to prepare for the worst -- and begin to put in place measures that would help protect fishermen and impacted local communities from the economic pressures of yet another dismal salmon season."
Preliminary reports from the Pacific Fishery Management Council predict returns of juvenile Central Valley Chinook salmon at 90,000 fish – the lowest level since 1990 and the second lowest of all time. Sacramento River salmon are considered the 'driver' of Pacific Coast commercial fisheries.
If the season is as bad as predicted, Congressman Thompson will introduce legislation for relief funds; however, the Magnuson-Stevens Act says that Congress is not authorized to appropriate disaster funds until the Secretary of Commerce declares the season a commercial fishery failure.
"When we had record lows on the Klamath River in 2006, it took months and months for the Secretary to declare the season a failure," added Thompson. "As a result, fishing families and businesses on the North Coast are just now getting federal relief. If we know we are going to have another limited season, we need to act as quickly as possible to help these families."
In 2007, Congressman Thompson introduced legislation to provide Pacific Coast salmon fishers, tribes and related businesses with $60.4 million in federal relief. The bill was signed by President Bush in May, and the funds are currently being distributed.
Sacramento River Salmon Letter -
Sacramento River Salmon Letter