Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith

Citing Mounting Challenges for Gulf Coast, Hyde-Smith Urges Commerce Sec. to Take Swift Action to Use Available Funds

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today encouraged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to take swift action to approve afishery disaster determination for the Mississippi Gulf Coast, using recently-approved funding for fishery disaster assistance.

Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, sent a letter to Ross that outlines the availability of appropriated funds for fishery disaster assistance and authorization for the Department of Commerce to address growing hardships facing fishing and seafood industries.



“Months of record rainfall, spring runoff, and disastrous flooding throughout the Mississippi River Basin has resulted in excess nutrient loading to the Gulf of Mexico.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecasted the hypoxic zone in the Gulf to reach record size this summer.” Hyde-Smith said.  “The negative effects on all segments of Mississippi’s fishing and seafood industries are becoming more evident each day.”

“Given the mounting challenges on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, existing authorities under current law, and available funding, I urge your department to take swift action to provide fishery disaster relief, as requested by Governor Bryant,” she said.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant in May submitted a request for a fishery disaster determination under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  Section 315 of that law authorizes the Commerce Secretary to establish a regional economic transition program to provide disaster relief assistance to fishermen, charter fishing operations, U.S. processors, and owners of fishery-related infrastructure affected by a catastrophic regional fishery disaster, subject to the availability of appropriations.

Earlier this month, Congress passed and the President signed an emergency disaster relief package that included $150 million to mitigate the effects of commercial fishery failures and fishery resource disasters declared by the Secretary of Commerce.

Federal agencies and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources continue to monitor the harmful effects of record-level nutrient runoff on oyster reefs, shrimp, crabs and finfish populations in the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.



The text of Hyde-Smith’s letter is available below and here.

June 26, 2019

Dear Secretary Ross:

The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act (Public Law 116-20), enacted on June 6, 2019, provides $150 million to the Department of Commerce for fishery disaster assistance.  As you evaluate requests for fishery disaster relief and oversee the distribution of these funds, I respectfully request that you give careful consideration to the challenges facing the fishing and seafood communities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Months of record rainfall, spring runoff, and disastrous flooding throughout the Mississippi River Basin has resulted in excess nutrient loading to the Gulf of Mexico.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecasted the hypoxic zone in the Gulf to reach record size this summer.  The negative effects on all segments of Mississippi’s fishing and seafood industries are becoming more evident each day.  On May 31, 2019, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant submitted a request to you for a fishery disaster determination under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Subject to the availability of appropriations, section 315 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1864) provides you the authority to establish a regional economic transition program to provide immediate disaster relief assistance to commercial and recreational fishermen, charter fishing operations, domestic seafood processors, and owners of related fishery infrastructure affected by a catastrophic regional fishery disaster.  Given the mounting challenges on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, existing authorities under current law, and available funding, I urge your department to take swift action to provide fishery disaster relief, as requested by Governor Bryant.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  I look forward to continuing to work with you to help the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.