ILWACO — A $50 million support package is in place for Washington’s non-tribal fishing and shellfish industries, members of the state’s congressional delegation announced last week.
“Thousands of fishermen around the Pacific Northwest are feeling the impacts of restaurant, fishing, and tourism season closures due to covid-19 and the loss of seafood sales. Due to the unique nature of fishing businesses, many have been left without federal assistance until now,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said in a press release. “Having $50 million coming to Washington state fishermen in grants and other direct assistance will provide much-needed money to fishing businesses to keep them a part of our maritime economy.”
The funding comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for states, tribes and territories with coastal and marine fishery participants who have been negatively affected by covid.
“The outbreak of covid-19 has put an incredible strain on Southwest Washington businesses, causing severe economic losses for our coastal fishing and shellfish industries,” U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said. “I was pleased to help secure this funding for our coastal fishermen and shellfish growers to provide a level of certainty that will help them tread water until their businesses are back up and running.”
Herrera Beutler, Olympic Coast U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Cantwell joined a bipartisan group of more than 30 members of Congress in a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging the Commerce Department to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, impacted stakeholders, and Native American tribes to rapidly provide this assistance.
“In Washington, our coastal fishing and shellfish industries are an essential part of our local economies,” said Kilmer. “With much of the nation’s economy currently shut down to keep people safe, our local, tribal and commercial fisheries and shellfish growers are facing unprecedented and severe consequences. This critical funding will help keep folks on payroll and ensure that our fisheries can continue to thrive on our coasts for generations to come.”
Murray said, “As this crisis continues, I’m going to keep working to get fishers, tribal members, shellfish growers and everyone else who relies on this vital industry the help they need to get through this.”
Kilmer and Herrera Beutler also joined a bipartisan group urging congressional leaders to include an additional $1.5 billion in future coronavirus relief measures to further support tribal, subsistence, commercial and charter fishery participants impacted by the coronavirus.
The funding is separate from the $8.4 million in fishery disaster relief from 2018 that is finally being dispersed to tribal and non-tribal fishing communities announced by Sens. Murray and Cantwell last week.