May 01, 2008


Smith, Wyden push to secure funding

In light of the near complete cancellation of all commercial salmon fishing off of the West Coast this year, the Department of Commerce today declared a "fishery failure" for the 2008 season. This declaration will provide the authorization needed for Congress to provide disaster assistance for affected communities. Oregon Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden urged the declaration in a letter to the Department of Commerce earlier this month.

"A season without work is devastating for families who are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table," Smith said. "Given skyrocketing gas and food prices, getting aid to these fishing communities quickly is critical. It's a matter of survival. This declaration allows us to begin pushing for funds immediately."

"This declaration by NOAA, which comes on a day that should mark the opening of salmon season on the Oregon Coast, is a crucial first step in providing disaster assistance to a fishing industry being devastated by yet another salmon closure," said Wyden. "We need to move quickly to get financial help to fishermen who I know would much rather be on the ocean today catching salmon than seeing their boats tied to a dock."

Due to record low projected salmon runs, the Pacific Fishery Management Council last month took the drastic step of recommending a near total closure of the salmon season, which has traditionally pumped millions of dollars into the coastal economy of Oregon. The fall run of Sacramento River chinook salmon is considered the driver for salmon fisheries off of the West Coast, averaging catches of more than 800,000 chinook annually from 2000 to 2005. This year, the class of returning adults is projected to fall to below 60,000 fish, a historic low.

Senators Smith and Wyden pushed for $60.4 million in disaster relief for West Coast salmon fishermen last year after commercial salmon fishing was all but eliminated along 700 miles of Oregon and California coastline in 2006. Smith and Wyden, along with senators from California and Washington, are urging the inclusion of funding in the Supplemental Appropriations bill expected to be debated in Congress this month.