- Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Florida’s intention to request federal aid for its fishing industry by seeking a federal fisheries disaster declaration from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
- A federal fisheries disaster declaration would provide assistance to fishermen and fishing communities affected by significant declines in fish stocks or natural disasters impacting their ability to catch and sell fish.
- Florida’s fishing industry, a crucial part of the state’s economy, supports thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in income, making federal assistance vital for its recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking in Steinhatchee on Thursday afternoon, announced the state’s intention to seek federal aid for its fishing industry by making a request to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
A federal fisheries disaster declaration is made under the authority of the Fishery Disasters Improvement Act and is granted when a fishery experiences a significant and unexpected decline in fish stocks or a natural disaster that affects the industry’s ability to catch and sell fish. The declaration allows for federal assistance to be provided to affected fishermen and fishing communities.
“We understand particularly in this area fishing is very important,” said DeSantis. “We are going to request from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce a federal fisheries disaster to help our fisheries rebuild.”
Upon determination of a fishery disaster, Congress must appropriate funds to provide assistance. These funds are distributed through grants or cooperative agreements, with recipients collaborating closely with NOAA Fisheries to develop spending plans based on community needs. Eligible expenditures cover a range of activities, from economic and social assessments to resource restoration, job training, and infrastructure needs. Additionally, small fishing-related businesses may qualify for Small Business Administration loans if a fishery resource disaster has been declared.
“This is an important part of the economy here, it has obviously been interrupted and it is going to be a big blow to a lot of folks in that industry,” said DeSantis.
DeSantis also stated that Florida was not awarded the fisheries aid following Hurricane Ian last year, but that he expects it to be authorized this time around, as the state meets more of the qualifications.
Saltwater fishing has a significant economic impact on Florida, earning the state the title of “Fishing Capital of the World.” In the fiscal year 2019-20, the state sold 1.5 million recreational saltwater licenses, generating $37.8 million in total sales. The economic impact of saltwater recreational fishing alone is $9.2 billion, while combined saltwater and freshwater recreational fishing have an economic impact of $13.8 billion.
The industry supports approximately 88,500 jobs in Florida, while both saltwater and freshwater fishing support 120,000 jobs in total. In 2019 and 2020, Florida’s commercial fisheries generated $3.2 billion in income and supported 76,700 jobs, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.