NC Division of Marine Fisheries

MOREHEAD CITY — Local commercial fishermen and others have an opportunity to provide input to state fishery managers on a spending plan for federal fisheries disaster aid.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is seeking input from the public on a draft spending plan for $7.7 million in federal fisheries disaster aid for Hurricane Florence. The spending plan must be approved by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service for the state to receive the funding.

The draft spending plan proposes disbursement of the funding through direct payments to affected seafood dealers and processors, bait and tackle shops, for-hire businesses and ocean fishing piers that can document lost revenue or damages due to Florence, which came through Carteret County in September 2018. These stakeholders were not compensated by earlier state-funded payments to commercial fishermen and shellfish harvesters.

The draft spending plan and other information pertaining to the Hurricane Florence federal fishery disaster declaration and assistance can be found online on the Hurricane Florence Federal Fishery Disaster Assistance Information Webpage at portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/assistance.

The public may submit written comments on the plan through an online form that can be accessed through the webpage or submit comments by mail to Hurricane Florence Federal Fishery Disaster Assistance Comments, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557. Comments should be posted online or postmarked by 5 p.m. Thursday, May 28. The division will not accept comments submitted by email.

Hurricane Florence dropped nearly 3 feet of rain over a four-day period and causing widespread flooding that disrupted fishing and destroyed boats, gear and buildings critical to fishing businesses. In a 2019 Hurricane Florence fisheries damage assessment report, the NMFS estimated $38 million in damage to vessels and business, $56.5 million in lost revenues and 3,500 fishing-related job losses.

In response to the storm, the state appropriated $11.6 million to the DMF that was distributed to commercial fishermen and shellfish harvesters to help compensate for income losses from harvest reductions. In tandem with the state response, Gov. Roy Cooper sought and won a federal disaster declaration for the state’s marine fishing industry, which began the process for federal disaster assistance.

Following the 2019 federal damage assessment, the DMF was notified in March that it is eligible to receive $7,728,000 in federal fishery disaster assistance after NOAA Fisheries approves the spending plan developed by the state. The public comment period is an integral part of the development of the spending plan.

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