Speier, Huffman Introduce Disaster Relief Funding Bill for Crab Fishermen

U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman announced legislation Friday in San Francisco that would provide more than $138 million in disaster assistance funding for California fishermen and businesses hurt by the shutdown of the commercial crab season.

The Crab Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2016 would provide $138.15 million in assistance to Dungeness and rock crab fishermen and related businesses. The funding is contingent on U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declaring the state's crab fishing industry a disaster and a commercial fishery failure.

The commercial crab season was scheduled to start Nov. 17, but remained closed after public health officials determined crabs had high levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can be harmful to humans if eaten, caused by an algal bloom.

Last month, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife moved to allow recreational crab fishing south of Point Reyes, but continued the closure of the commercial season. The shutdown had caused an estimated $48 million in losses to the industry as of last month, according to state

"Commercial fishermen and local businesses have been economically devastated by the closure of the Dungeness crab season," Speier, D-San Mateo/San Francisco, said today in a statement. "Some of them are on the brink of losing their boats."

"These hardworking fishermen shouldn't have to suffer economic hardship after working tirelessly to sustain this crab fishery, which is so vital to our local economy," Huffman, D-San Rafael, said.

The act also includes $1 million for domoic acid sampling and monitoring on the West Coast and $5 million for competitive grants for research on harmful algal blooms and domoic acid toxicity.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Feb. 9 sent a letter to Pritzker asking the secretary to declare a fisheries disaster.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, will introduce a companion bill in the Senate.

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