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Rubio, Colleagues Support Florida’s Request for Federal Fishery Disaster Declaration

Sep 6, 2023 | Press Releases

Hurricane Idalia severely impacted Florida’s fisheries, a significant contributor to Florida’s economy. These small businesses need assistance to recover from this Major Hurricane. 

On September 5, 2023, the State of Florida requested the U.S. Department of Commerce to declare a federal fishery resource disaster to support fishery businesses affected by Hurricane Idalia.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and colleagues sent a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo supporting the State of Florida’s request.

  • “Florida’s iconic fisheries are foundational to the economy and way of life of many of the communities that have been devastated by Hurricane Idalia. A timely and robust response by the Department of Commerce, through the declaration of a fishery disaster in support of Florida’s fishing industries, is required to help these communities recover.”

Joining Rubio were Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) and Representatives Daniel Webster (R-FL), Kat Cammack (R-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), Brian Mast (R-FL), Mike Waltz (R-FL), and Vern Buchanan (R-FL).

The full text of the letter is below. 

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

We write in support of the State of Florida’s request for a federal fishery disaster declaration in response to the severe impacts of Hurricane Idalia.  We respectfully urge you to expeditiously approve the disbursal of disaster assistance to fishing and seafood businesses that have been disrupted and/or destroyed by the storm.

On September 5, 2023, the State of Florida submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Commerce to declare a federal fishery resource disaster pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Act, including clauses to initiate support from the Economic Development Administration, to support fishery businesses in response to Hurricane Idalia.  As noted in the initial request, Florida’s recreational saltwater fishing industry has a $9.2 billion annual economic impact, and commercial fisheries total $244 million in dockside value.  Florida’s Big Bend region, which was most severely impacted by Hurricane Idalia, is home to more than 600 commercial fishermen, 160 fishery wholesalers and retailers, 240 aquaculture shellfish farmers, and 450 for-hire charter captains.  These small businesses need the federal government’s expeditious assistance in order to recover from this Major Hurricane.

It is worth noting that the issuance of fishery resource disaster determinations has been unacceptably slow in recent years.  Florida still awaits two determinations from previous requests of federal fishery resource disasters, including for Hurricanes Sally and Ian, which were submitted in December 2020 and October 2022, respectively.  Delays in assistance hinder the survival of fishery businesses impacted by disasters.  As such, we urge to you meet the deadlines requested in the Governor’s September 5 letter for an interim response within 20 days, the complete review of the request within 120 days, and the issuance of a determination within 14 days of the completion of the review consistent with the requirements of the Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement Act.  Further, we urge you to immediately approve an affirmative fishery resource disaster determination for Hurricane Sally, and to approve an affirmative fishery resource disaster determination, as soon as possible upon the receipt of requested data, which is currently being compiled, for Hurricane Ian.

Florida’s iconic fisheries are foundational to the economy and way of life in many of the communities that have been devastated by Hurricane Idalia.  A timely and robust response by the Department of Commerce, through the declaration of a fishery disaster in support of Florida’s fishing industries, is required to help these communities recover.  We urge you to approve these declarations without delay.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,