At the recommendation of Oregon’s coastal legislators, Gov. Kate Brown issued a formal request on Oct. 4 to the U.S. Department of Commerce for federal disaster relief for Oregon’s commercial salmon industry. This request comes in response to diminished salmon landings for the 2018, 2019, and 2020 seasons.
The Coastal Caucus, a bipartisan coalition of Oregon’s coastal legislators, worked in conjunction with the Oregon Salmon Commission to pursue this request.
“Salmon landings in Oregon have fallen from $14 million in 2014 to $1.5 million in 2020," Rep. David Gomberg (D-Otis), the Coastal Caucus Chair said. "The salmon industry is reeling and the Oregon Salmon Commission asked coastal legislators for help. I’m pleased the Governor is lending her support to the hardworking men and women of our commercial salmon industry and our coastal economy.”
Oregon Salmon Commission Executive Director Nancy Fitzpatrick said the economic impact stretches from the coastal waters to local businesses and the consumer.
"It impacts gear stores," Fitzpatrick said. "They are impacted. People aren’t buying gear. The are not buying fuel. They are not doing grocery shopping to buy food to take out on the boat. Many of our boats fish for albacore and crab as well as salmon, so taking away one of those three doesn’t help your family budget."
"Salmon are a vital component of Oregon’s natural resources and provide significant commercial, recreational, economic, and aesthetic benefits to the state," Gov. Brown said in her letter. "Salmon are also highly valued by Native American tribes for cultural, subsistence, and economic benefits. While economic assistance will be 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.”
The 2020 fleet-wide salmon landings of approximately $1.5 million in value represents a historic low only surpassed by the results of the season closure in 2009. Salmon landings in both 2018 and 2019 sit at $2.4 million and $2.1 million respectively, far below the 2016 season, which was declared a disaster at a fleet-wide $4.3 million.
Fitzpatrick said the next step is up to the federal government and congress.
"Congress would decide if it meets qualifications for a disaster," Fitzpatrick said. "If they agree congress would look for money. In the past, such appropriations have it been directly dispersed to fishermen and fisherwomen."
The Oregon Legislative Coastal Caucus includes bipartisan representatives and senators from coastal districts from Astoria to Brookings. It is chaired by Representative David Gomberg (D-Otis), Vice-Chair Senator Dick Anderson (R-Lincoln City), and includes Senators Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg) and Representatives Suzanne Weber (R-Tillamook), Boomer Wright (R-Coos Bay), and David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford).