Senator Cantwell calls for fishery disaster funding reform

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell on Wednesday pushed for reform in the federal fishery disaster response, reminding her congressional colleagues that Washington charter fishermen were excluded from federal aid after the 2016 coho fishing disaster.

“In Washington, fisheries are a cornerstone of our maritime economy,” Cantwell told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on which she serves. “Its related businesses and seafood processors, ship builders, gear manufacturers, support 60% of our maritime economy, which is about 146,000 jobs and $30 billion in economic activity.”

Butch Smith, President of the Ilwaco Charter Association, said in Cantwell’s press release that he saw the effects of the disaster first hand.

“In Westport, Wash., alone, five charter boats have already left Westport and the Washington Coast,” Smith said. “People have lost houses and businesses as a result of the disaster.”

Cantwell said she wants to mandate that small business charter fishermen are included in the Disaster Relief Recovery Act, so they receive relief funding in the future.

In response to poor Coho salmon returns in 2015 and 2016, severe limits were placed on both recreational and commercial fisheries off the Washington and Oregon coasts. The disaster led to a federal disaster declaration, but only a limited amount of relief money was appropriated.