Commerce Dept. Approves Oregon Fishery Disaster Declaration

Federal authorities have approved a fishery disaster for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 at Oregon Chinook salmon ocean commercial fisheries, a decision that makes fishermen eligible to apply for disaster assistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Oregon’s congressional delegation, also including five members of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced the determination on Friday, Oct. 13, saying the aid would help the state’s coastal economies recover from years of drought, changing ocean conditions, and critical habitat loss that have harmed salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest.

The delegation said that the U.S. Department of Commerce has fishery disaster assistance funding available and would soon determine the allocation.

“Oregon’s fishing industry is essential to our state’s economy and creates good-paying jobs our communities rely on,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, R-Ore., said. “This federal disaster declaration the Oregon delegation pushed for recognizes the significant toll of declining salmon populations on our fishermen, and it cements our commitment to investing in the long-term recovery of Oregon’s coastal communities.”

“Oregonians living and working on the coast know full well how crucial the fishing industry is to job growth and their communities’ economic well-being,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said. “Coastal fishing’s impact also ripples out statewide.”  

The delegation notes that from 2013 to 2017, the commercial value of Chinook salmon was around $6.3 million annually for Oregon fisheries. But with the impacts of climate chaos impacting salmon populations, the economic value of Chinook $2.3 million in 2018, $2 million in 2019, and $1.4 million in 2020. 

Merkley responded by leading the delegation in a serious of letters to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, detailing the critical need for federal support for Oregon’s commercial fishing industry as local, state and federal partners continue to work on long-term solutions.

Meanwhile, efforts to determine a fishery disaster in the state have been ongoing since 2020.