Pacific Northwest
Salmon working upstream to Tumwater Falls, Olympia Washington (Photo by Peter Ravella, CNT)

OR - Oregon Delegation Announces Approval of Federal Fishery Disaster Declaration

The determination will help ocean commercial fishermen in Oregon recover from significant economic losses in 2018, 2019, and 2020 from declining salmon populations

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Val Hoyle (OR-04), Andrea Salinas (OR-06), and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), announced today that the U.S. Department of Commerce has determined a fishery disaster for 2018, 2019, and 2020 Oregon Chinook salmon ocean commercial fisheries in the state.

This determination, championed by the Oregon delegation, will make local fishermen eligible to apply for long overdue disaster assistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Department of Commerce currently has fishery disaster assistance funding available and will determine the allocation for this disaster soon. Those federal resources will help the state’s coastal economies recover from years of drought, changing ocean conditions, and critical habitat loss that have severely harmed salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest.

“Oregon’s fishing industry is essential to our state’s economy and creates good-paying jobs our communities rely on,” Merkley said. “This federal disaster declaration the Oregon delegation pushed for recognizes the significant toll of declining salmon populations on our fishermen, and it cements our commitment to investing in the long-term recovery of Oregon’s coastal communities.”

“Oregonians living and working on the coast know full well how crucial the fishing industry is to job growth and their communities’ economic well-being,” Wyden said. “Coastal fishing’s impact also ripples out statewide, and I’m gratified the federal Commerce Department has agreed to the delegation’s request for a fishery disaster declaration that will help support this iconic and productive Oregon industry.”

“It is impossible to overstate the value of salmon to Oregon. This federal disaster declaration will be a lifeline for Oregon’s fishing communities. As we continue to push to restore healthy and abundant salmon populations, it is also an important step forward for the federal government to honor its treaty obligations with Pacific Northwest tribes,” said Blumenauer.

“This declaration will benefit the Pacific NW’s fishing industry, workers, and economy,” said Bonamici. “Oregon’s fisheries have worked hard to overcome numerous challenges in recent years, including decline in the salmon population, and this determination will provide support so they can sustain the industry and grow into the future.”

“Sustainable fishing off of the Oregon Coast provides good paying jobs and is a major economic boon for Oregon’s economy. However our fishermen need support to get through these bad years for Oregon Chinook salmon. A federal disaster declaration will provide much-needed relief and I’ll keep working to get more resources back to Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District,” said Hoyle.

“Salmon are critically important to our culture, identity, and economy here in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, climate change, drought, and a whole host of other factors are causing the salmon population to decrease every year,” said Salinas. “I am glad that Oregon’s fisheries will now be eligible for federal assistance, allowing them to stay afloat while we work to find long-term solutions at the local, state, and federal levels.”

“I’m glad much-needed federal assistance will be coming to local fisheries,” Chavez-DeRemer said. “This critical industry has suffered a number of setbacks in recent years, and I’ll continue working with the Oregon delegation to ensure fishermen are able to recover and succeed.”

In addition to the economic activity generated by Oregon’s commercial fishing industry, salmon are an important part of the cultural heritage of Pacific Northwest Tribes, generate recreational activity, and are a treasured natural resource across the state. As a result, declining salmon populations hurt the state and the region on many levels.

From 2013 to 2017, the commercial value of Chinook salmon was around $6.3 million annually for Oregon fisheries. But with the impacts of climate chaos impacting salmon populations, the economic value of Chinook fell sharply to $2.3 million in 2018, $2 million in 2019, and $1.4 million in 2020.

In response, Senator Merkley led the delegation in a series of letters to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, including one in 2021, detailing the critical need for federal support for this industry while local, state, and federal partners continue to work toward long-term solutions.

Additional efforts from the Oregon delegation seeking the U.S. Department of Commerce to determine a fishery disaster in the state for years following 2020 are ongoing. This includes the latest letter in April led by Senator Wyden in support of Governor Tina Kotek’s request for a federal fishery resource disaster declaration.


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