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Relevant Legislation

NOAA Fisheries has the authority to administer fishery disaster assistance under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act (IFA). Under both statutes, a request for a fishery disaster determination is generally made by a state governor, or by an elected or duly appointed representative of an affected fishing community. The Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), however, may also initiate a review at his/her own discretion. More information is available on the process of requesting fishery disaster assistance, and below are additional details on the relevant provisions of the MSA and IFA.

MSA Section 312(a)

Under MSA Section 312(a), the Secretary is authorized to determine a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster of either:  a) natural causes, b) man-made causes beyond the control of fishery managers to mitigate through conservation and management measures, including regulatory restrictions (including those imposed as a result of judicial action) imposed to protect human health or the marine environment, or c) undetermined causes. Any relief provided may be used to assess economic and social effects of a commercial fishery failure, or any activity that the Secretary determines is appropriate to restore the fishery or prevent a similar failure in the future.

MSA Section 315

MSA Section 315 authorizes the Secretary to establish a regional economic transition program to provide disaster relief assistance to fishermen, charter fishing operations, United States processors, and owners of related fishery infrastructure affected by a “catastrophic regional fishery disaster.” A catastrophic regional fishery disaster affects more than one state or a major fishery managed by a regional fishery management council or interstate fishery commission. Subject to the availability of appropriations, the regional economic transition program must provide funds or other economic assistance for disbursement to affected entities for meeting immediate regional shoreside infrastructure needs, financial assistance and job training, fishing capacity reduction, and other activities authorized under MSA Section 312(a) or IFA Section 308(d). MSA Section 315 also allows for waiver of non-federal matching requirements if the Secretary determines no reasonable means are available for applicants to meet the matching requirement and that the probable benefit of 100 percent federal financing outweighs the public cost.

IFA Section 308(b)

Under IFA Section 308(b), the Secretary is authorized to provide grants or cooperative agreements to states determined to have been affected by a commercial fishery failure or serious disruption affecting future production due to a fishery resource disaster arising from natural or undetermined causes. Man-made causes (such as an oil spill) are not eligible for a disaster determination under this provision. Any assistance provided cannot be used to assess the economic and social effects of the commercial fishery failure.

IFA Section 308(d)

Under IFA Section 308(d), the Secretary is authorized to help persons engaged in commercial fisheries for projects or other measures to alleviate harm determined by the Secretary to have been incurred as a direct result of a fishery resource disaster arising from a hurricane or other natural disaster.