Expedited Review of Salmon Disaster Plan Requested by California Congressmen

Spring Chinook salmon. Photo: Michael Humling, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Congressional representatives from California say complete closure of the state’s ocean and river salmon fisheries has been devastating for their constituents and that federal agencies should expedite the review and approval of the 2023 California fisheries disaster plan request.

U.S. Representatives Jared Huffman and Jimmy Panetta and Sen. Alex Padilla, all Democrats, made their request in a June 4 letter to Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad.

Last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office requested that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo declare a federal fisheries disaster after the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the state closed the season because of weak Chinook salmon stocks.

“Any acceleration of the process for funds to be distributed to fishers and affected communities would be highly beneficial,” they told the two administrators. “California’s commercial, sport and charter fishers, tribes, businesses, restaurants, and the communities who depend upon the salmon fishery cannot afford to wait any longer for the relief needed to weather the ongoing crises.”

In April 2023, Huffman, Padilla and Panetta led colleagues in an urgent letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, urging them to swiftly declare a federal fisheries disaster in the wake of the closures.

Huffman was able to help secure an additional $300 million for fishery disaster declarations in the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations legislation as part of his long-standing efforts to improve disaster relief for fisheries.

Congress also authorized new bipartisan fishery disaster relief language based on Huffman and Sen. Roger Wicker’s Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement Act. Language in that bill streamlines the process for declaring a federal fishery disaster and helps speed relief to affected communities.

It also extends eligibility for federal fishery disaster funds not only to commercial fisheries, but to charter fishing businesses and impacted tribes.