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Rep. Schrader Champions Oregon’s Fisheries During Pandemic

 


For Immediate Release

April 17, 2020

Contact: Larkin Parker, 202-225-5711

 

Rep. Schrader Champions Oregon’s Fisheries During Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) led a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) urging them to protect his constituents in Oregon’s fishing industry. Since the Coronavirus began to affect Oregon’s fisheries and coastal communities, Rep. Schrader has led multiple letters and endlessly advocated on behalf of the West Coast fishing community during these unprecedented times.

Commercial fishing is an essential industry and fisherman and processing plant workers are critical parts of the supply chain, helping get nutritious food to American families,” said Rep. Schrader. “West Coast fleets have a proven record of responsibly motoring their catch and bycatch. Having observers moving between ships during this time acts as an unnecessary hazard for fisherman and plant processors as they work to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the integrity of this critical supply chain. These are challenging times, and we must ensure flexibility for business to continue safely. I will continue to advocate for our West Coast fisheries, and I am proud to represent so many members of this community in Congress.”

At sea observers are individuals who travel between multiple vessels and processing facilities, monitoring catch and bycatch to ensure that conservation and management standards are being upheld by groundfish fleets. Given the nature of commercial fishing, it is already challenging for fleets to follow social distancing guidelines while at sea. When observers move from vessel to vessel, the chances of transmitting COVID-19 increase considerably. Temporary suspension of at sea observers would dramatically decrease the potential for disease transmission to these essential workers and will aid in protecting the health and wellbeing of our coastal communities, as well as the critical seafood supply chain. For the health of workers and the salience of West Coast fisheries, it is critical that NOAA and NMFS continue to adapt their regulatory requirements to meet the needs of the day.

 

April 15, 2020

 


Chris Oliver

Assistant Administrator

NOAA Fisheries

1315 East-West Highway

Silver Spring, MD 20910

 

Barry Thom

Regional Administrator, West Coast Region

NOAA Fisheries

1201 NE Lloyd Boulevard

Portland, OR 97232

Dear Assistant Administrator Oliver and Regional Administrator Thom,

We write to ask that your administration work with our partners and constituents in the fisheries industry to give them the flexibility they need to protect both their workers and their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

These are unprecedented times, and our constituents in fishing communities up and down the Pacific Coast are looking to your agency to take additional temporary steps to assist the fishing industry. Commercial fishing is classified as an essential industry in this pandemic. The health and safety of everyone involved in this industry is of paramount importance to us. Fishing crews, processing plant workers, and essential support service providers are working hard to maintain the food supply chain, keep our constituents employed, and support coastal economies.

Our partners at organizations including the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, Fishermen’s Marketing Association, Oregon Trawl Commission, and United Catcher Boats have reached out to us with concerns about many issues, chief among them the continued requirement for at-sea and shoreside observer coverage in the Pacific Coast Trawl Groundfish fishery as though it were business as usual. Observers travel around, moving between vessels and shoreside facilities frequently, essentially acting as a potential vector for the disease. Even if none of the working observers feel sick, there is certainly the possibility that some of them are asymptomatic carriers which not only endangers themselves but everyone they are in close contact with during the course of their job. The Pacific Coast trawl industry has worked hard, in partnership with NMFS, to monitor the catch and bycatch in their fisheries. They request flexibility around observer requirements, and we want to ensure that their requests are heard and honored.

There are additional areas in which our industry partners have requested your assistance in easing financial burdens and modifying requirements to ensure that the highest health and safety standards are being upheld while the industry continues to operate under increasingly challenging market conditions. We have attached letters from several Pacific Coast industry groups, and request that you work with them on the recommendations listed in their letters.

Thank you for your consideration, and for working with us and with the fishing industry to ensure that this essential industry can continue to provide jobs and seafood in a safe, healthy manner.

 

Sincerely,

                                   

            KURT SCHRADER                                                   RON WYDEN

            Member of Congress                                                  U.S. Senator

 

            

            PETER A. DeFAZIO                                                 JEFFREY A. MERKLEY

            Member of Congress                                                  U.S. Senator

 

            

            MIKE THOMPSON                                                   SUZANNE BONAMICI

            Member of Congress                                                  Member of Congress

 

 

CC: Phil Anderson, Chairman, Pacific Fishery Management Council

 

 

 

 

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