Cantwell Language to Expand Tribal Eligibility, Include Charter Fishermen in Fisheries Disaster Process Passes Committee

In September, Cantwell highlighted issues with current fisheries disaster process; Small business charter fishermen were excluded from 2016 Coho fisheries disaster - estimated $100 million cost to Washington state

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Provisions introduced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to reform the federal fisheries disaster process passed the committee today. Cantwell’s provisions would expand and protect Tribal eligibility for fisheries disaster assistance and require charter fishermen to be included in economic relief. 

“This legislation will help improve the federal fisheries disaster management program that impacted fishermen in coastal communities so that they will get financial relief faster,” Cantwell said. “As we all know, fisheries issues impact lots of different aspects of our community. But certainly the commercial and recreational fishermen deserve to be compensated as well, and with communities on our Pacific Coast that are very dependent on charter activities, I want to make sure, in the case of a disaster, that they too can apply and receive funding.” 

In a September hearing, Cantwell highlighted the failures of the current disaster process by discussing the 2016 Coho salmon fishery disaster, which impacted fisheries throughout Washington state. 

“The Coho disaster impacted Tribes, commercial fisherman, charter and recreational fisherman… but not all groups received adequate funding from NOAA,” Cantwell said at the September hearing. “In a shift from previous policy, the administration determined that the charter fishermen should not be included in the economic determination. Thus, I believe Washington did not receive adequate funding for this disaster.” 

Throughout her time in the Senate, Cantwell has prioritized working on issues that impact the fishing industry. In 2015, she introduced bipartisan legislation to create a national ocean acidification monitoring strategy to prioritize investments in ocean acidification sensors to areas that need it most. In 2018, she worked with colleagues in the House and Senate to secure $200 million in federal funding to help communities with declared fisheries disasters. She has also fought to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed from harmful mining and opposed drilling off the coasts of Washington and Oregon. 

Video of Senator Cantwell’s remarks at today’s hearing is available HERE and audio is HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement at a September Commerce Committee hearing is available HERE, audio is HERE, and a transcript is HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with witnesses at the September hearing is available HERE, audio is HERE, and a transcript is HERE.