Governor calls for federal disaster help for Oregon’s struggling commercial salmon industry
Oregon Governor Kate Brown is asking the federal government for disaster relief for the state’s ailing commercial salmon industry.
The governor submitted the formal request for assistance to the US Department of Commerce on Monday. In his letter Brown said the economic performance of the commercial salmon fishery along most of the coast since 2018 has been less than a third of what it was in previous years. This continuing trend, she said in the letter, is having serious effects on already struggling rural communities and businesses that depend on salmon.
Brown said salmon are vital to the state’s natural resources and provide important commercial, recreational, economic and aesthetic benefits. Salmon is also very important to the Native American tribes in the area.
“While economic assistance is essential to address the impacts of closures and restrictions on our salmon fisheries, it is vitally important that federal, state, tribal and local governments continue to work together to recover and restore salmon populations and develop management strategies to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of our salmon fisheries, ”she said in the letter.
State Representative David Gomberg, D-Otis, is the chair of the Oregon Coastal Caucus in the Oregon Legislature, which has urged Brown to seek disaster assistance. If the relief money arrives, Gomberg said it would help buy time while longer-term solutions are worked out.
“The problem here is quite simple. We have had reduced stream flows, we have had warming waters, we have had ocean acidification and hypoxia, ”he said. “Some of these problems can be solved in the medium or short term, some of them will require long term solutions. All of them are going to take some time.
Gomberg said about 900 salmon fishing licenses were issued last year, but only 150 boats went fishing.
“We are just fighting to keep this industry alive,” he said.
The aid money would mainly help the fishermen most directly affected by the low catch levels in recent years. But Gomberg said the impact of the aid would go beyond the people who make a living by fishing for fish.
“It’s also the people who process and clean the fish. These are the people who sell the fish, whether it’s in restaurants or grocery stores or some of our coastal fish stands, ”he said.
There is no timeline for when the US Department of Commerce could make its decision.