Wicker Introduces Fishery Disasters Bill

July 31, 2019

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the “Fishery Failures: Urgently Needed Disaster Declarations (Fishery FUNDD) Act.” This legislation would reform the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)’s Fishery Resource Disaster Relief program of the National Marine Fisheries Service, making improvements to provide fishermen with disaster relief more quickly.

“I have met with local officials and seen firsthand how extensive flooding in Mississippi has created an economic and environmental emergency for my state and its coastal fisheries,” said Wicker. “Freshwater has devastated our seafood industry and spurred the growth of Harmful Algal Blooms, which shut down our beaches, hurting tourism. This legislation would expedite the process by which fishermen receive disaster relief. I hope my colleagues will move quickly to pass this bill and help our fishermen.”

In the past, it has been years between the request for a disaster declaration and when communities see any money, and it has been difficult to get that money directly to the people who need it.

Wicker’s Fishery FUNDD Act would streamline the fisheries disaster declaration process by holding the federal government accountable to deadlines to get funding out the door faster. It would also allow for disaster funding to go directly to members of the fishing community. Among other provisions, the bill would:

  • Maintain the authority of the Secretary of Commerce to determine the existence of a fishery disaster after which the Secretary would make funds available to be used by state or regional groups to assess the impacts of the disaster and conduct other activities that support fishing activity;
  • Assign a 120 day timeline for the Secretary to evaluate a request, either upon receipt or immediately after the close of the fishery season; and
  • List the eligible uses of fishery disaster relief funds, including direct payments to affected members of the fishing community, habitat restoration and conservation, management improvements, job training, public information campaigns, and preventative measures for future disasters. It would prioritize hiring fishermen displaced by the fishery disaster for these tasks.

Last month, Chairman Wicker sent a letter with Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in support of Governor Phil Bryant’s request for a federal fisheries disaster declaration.

To read the full bill, click here.