This week Congress acted quickly to include $300 million (€282 million) in funds for fishery disasters in its massive omnibus appropriations bill. Earlier this month the US government determined fishery disasters in multiple Alaska and Washington state fisheries over the last several years, including the Alaska Bristol Bay red king crab and Bering Sea snow crab fisheries.

“The $300 million included in the omnibus appropriation package for fishery disasters is a great start for much-needed money to help fishermen and communities pay their bills,” said Jamie Goen, executive director for Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. “We commend the Secretary of Commerce, NOAA Fisheries, and members of Congress, particularly the Alaska and Washington delegations, for their swift action and attention to this issue affecting so many hard-working Americans and family fishing businesses.”

The fishery disaster determination means the fisheries and others that are designated disasters can now receive emergency federal funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In October, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) canceled red king crab fishing season in Bristol Bay as well as the snow crab fishery, creating panic among Alaska's crab fleet, with many now facing bankruptcy and job loss.

It was only the second time in 25 years that the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery has been cancelled, and the first time ever the snow crab fishery was called off.

The following fisheries meet the requirements for a fishery disaster determination:

  • 2022/2023 Alaska Bristol Bay Red King Crab and Bering Sea Snow Crab fisheries.
  • 2021/2022 Alaska Bristol Bay Red King Crab and Bering Sea Snow Crab fisheries.
  • 2021 Alaska Kuskokwim River Salmon, Norton Sound Chum and Coho Salmon fisheries.
  • 2021 Chignik Salmon fishery
  • 2020 and 2021 Alaska Norton Sound Red King Crab fisheries.
  • 2020 Washington Ocean Salmon fisheries.
  • 2020 Copper River/Prince William Sound Coho and Pink Salmon fisheries.
  • 2019 Washington Columbia River, Willapa Bay and Puget Sound Salmon fisheries

A declared fishery disaster must meet specific requirements under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and/or the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act.

For example, there must be a commercial fishery failure and significant declines in fishery access or available catch resulting from specific allowable causes such as natural causes beyond the control of fishery managers to mitigate in order to qualify for disaster funding.