Relevant Legislation and Resources—Fishery Disaster Assistance
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
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.
Many fishermen are unaware of federal grants and loans that might be available to them. A NOAA Fisheries report compiles available opportunities and provides basic program information and links to additional details.
Explore the information below for additional potential sources of federal assistance for fishing communities.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
The SBA guarantees loans from local banks. The 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program is one of SBA's primary lending programs. It provides loans to small businesses unable to secure financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. The program operates through private-sector lenders that provide loans which are, in turn, guaranteed by the SBA. The SBA has no funds for direct lending or grants. Additional information is also available from local lenders.
The SBA also has Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). These loans provide operating funds until a business returns to normal operations (usually 1 year). Loans cannot be used to refinance existing debts. Eligible applicants: small businesses, cooperatives, and most private non‐profit organizations are eligible. Eligibility requires an SBA disaster determination for the area, but the determination covers commercial fishermen, as well as businesses directly or indirectly related to fishing (boat repair, restaurant, grocery stores, etc.). In order to receive a SBA disaster determination, the Governor must certify that at least 5 small businesses have suffered substantial economic injury. There is not a matching funds requirement. The maximum loan amount is $2,000,000. Loans are 30 year loans with an interest rate of 3‐4%; collateral is required. A due date will be specified on the disaster declaration.
U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA)
The EDA’s mission is to create new jobs and retain existing jobs in economically stressed communities. EDA provides both community grants and revolving loan funds to help distressed communities develop strategies to improve their economic situation. EDA’s role in disaster recovery is to facilitate delivery of federal economic development assistance to local governments for long-term community economic recovery planning, reconstruction, redevelopment, and resiliency. EDA has assisted fishing communities in the past, and most of their support for the fishing industry has been funded through their Public Works or Economic Adjustment Programs. The Public Works Program has funded port and harbor improvements in fishing communities, and the Economic Adjustment Program helps communities adjust to serious changes in their economic situation. Proceeds from this program are generally used for business development, infrastructure, and market research.
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
The DOL’s Economic Dislocation and Worker Adjustment Assistance Act (EDWAA) provides funds through National Emergency Grants to states and local grantees to help dislocated workers find and qualify for new jobs. Workers who have lost their jobs and are unlikely to return to their previous industries or occupations are eligible for the program. This includes workers affected by plant closures or mass layoffs; long-term unemployed persons with limited job opportunities in their fields; and farmers, ranchers and other self-employed persons (including fishermen) who become unemployed due to general economic conditions. Services include retraining, readjustment services, and needs-related payments.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA grants are available only by a presidential declaration of a major disaster or emergency which designates that the grants be made available. Additional information is available through the FEMA website.
Disaster Recovery Assistance
The Department of Labor and fifteen other federal agencies have partnered with FEMA to create an online resource, DisasterAssistance.gov. The website provides information on how to get help from the U.S. government before, during, and after a disaster.