U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker determined Wednesday there are commercial fishery failures for nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alaska, California and Washington. These fisheries experienced sudden and unexpected large decreases in fish stock biomass due to unusual ocean and climate conditions in recent years. This decision means North Coast communities can seek disaster relief from Congress.
Major ports for dungeness crab stretch from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon Border. Crab fishermen in Fort Bragg in Mendocino County have been hit particularly hard economically by fishing delays in 2015 and 2016. Many local fisherman have had to abandon the fishery altogether or take on extra jobs to pay the bills.
McGuire has stated that annual crab revenues in California average $60 million with peak season earnings exceeding $95 million. According to statistics from California's Department of Fish and Wildlife, revenues for the 2015-16 season were estimated at only $33 million, about 45% of the five year average.
Around this time last year a coalition of state legislators led by North Coast State Senator Mike McGuire sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown, urging him to declare a fishery disaster due to the impacts of the delayed dungeness crab season triggered by high concentrations of the neurotoxin called domoic acid found in crabs. Soon after, Governor Brown and the Director of Fish and Wildlife made the official request for the disaster declaration to the federal government. Its apparent now that the U.S. Secretary got their message.