On June 16, 2011, the Department of Commerce released a policy to provide guidance on how NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will evaluate requests for fishery disaster declarations. Two statutes, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act, provide the authority and requirements for fishery disaster assistance.
Under both statutes, a request for a fishery disaster determination is generally made by the Governor of a State, or by a fishing community, although the Secretary of Commerce may also initiate a review at his or her own discretion. The Secretary determines whether the circumstances are consistent with relevant statutes and warrants a fishery disaster determination. If the Secretary determines that a fishery disaster has occurred, Congress may appropriate funds for disaster assistance, which are administered by the Secretary.
The policy lays out a three-step process, based on statutory language, for evaluating fishery disasters. The policy formalizes the current practice that has been used to evaluate fishery disaster requests, with the specific benefits of: