The COVID-19 economic stimulus package passed by the U.S. Senate will include $300 million to provide economic relief for the fishing industry, according to a statement from the office of U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
“The thousands of fishermen in the Pacific Northwest, and across the nation, will now have access to grants and other forms of financial relief from NOAA,” said Cantwell. “We have already seen layoffs and fishing season closures, and it’s crucial that we support fishermen and ensure they have access to emergency grants and other assistance as they face the unprecedented challenges of this pandemic.”
The provision was authored by Cantwell to support tribes, shellfish farmers, and commercial and charter fishermen in Washington state and around the country. It would direct the Secretary of Commerce to distribute $300 million in financial assistance in the form of direct payments such as grants, as well as other forms of investments in the fishing industry and shellfish farms.
According to Cantwell’s statement, fishermen are experiencing significant economic losses due to the novel coronavirus. In March, there were reports of layoffs in the shellfish industry. Tribal fishermen have reported serious economic losses in the geoduck, Dungeness crab, and halibut fisheries. Charter fishermen have already reported fewer bookings for upcoming fishing trips. While some fishing businesses may qualify for small business assistance or unemployment assistance, many fishermen do not. This new financial assistance will help all fishermen, including fishermen who may not qualify for other forms of aid because many fishermen are self-employed.