Governor Brown Requests Fishery Disaster Declaration

California Governor Jerry Brown on 9 February issues a long-anticipated letter to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker requesting that the Secretary declare a fishery disaster in California due to the persistence of domoic acid contamination in Dungeness and Rock crabs. The letter is seen as a crucial step in the march toward obtaining federal disaster relief for crabbers, who have lost the vast majority of the fishing season due to the ongoing closure. Governor Brown estimated the loss at 71% of the expected revenue to crabbers, or about $60 million, despite that the crabbing season may still open and would not close until 30 June at the earliest.

Crab revenue is front-loaded to the early part of the season, when the resource is most abundant, quality peaks, and demand spikes around the Christmas and New Years holidays. Crabbers are now waiting for Secretary Pritzker’s response to Governor Brown’s letter. If the Secretary does declare a fishery disaster, the next step would be to seek a disaster relief appropriation from Congress. Coastal California Representatives Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman are said to already be developing an appropriation bill ahead of the Secretary’s announcement.

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