Committee approves measure to protect fishing industry in natural disasters

The House Natural Resources Committee approved a measure introduced by Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) on Thursday that would require more timely economic data on the impact natural disasters have on fishing communities.

Runyan introduced an amendment to the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, which would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act for five years.

Runyan’s amendment would require the secretary of commerce to estimate and publish the economic toll a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy had on a region’s fishing industry within 30 days of a fisheries resource disaster declaration.

“I am pleased that the committee has passed my bipartisan, straightforward amendment that is needed so that when the next natural disaster decimates a fishing community, that community will receive timely data and not be forced to suffer like the fishermen in New Jersey and New York had to in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,” Runyan said.

Following Hurricane Sandy, the secretary of commerce declared a fisheries resources disaster in New York and New Jersey in November 2012. Congress approved $5 million in fisheries disaster aid in January 2013 without access to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) cost estimates, which were released in March.

“It should not take months and months for the NOAA to release damage estimates, and my amendment will help protect fishing communities so that they can receive the appropriate amount of aid in a timely manner,” Runyan said.