OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - The loss of this year’s crab season has cost the industry more than $100 million and has driven many of the captains and crews to the brink of financial insolvency. On Friday, three Bay Area members of Congress announced their pushing for emergency relief for these farmers of the sea.
Peninsula Congresswoman Jackie Speier and North Bay Congressman Jared Huffman announced they have proposed that Congress pass the Crab Disaster Emergency Assistance Act. It's a direct response to the massive losses suffered by California crabbers and crew due to toxic algae that killed their season.
"This bill would provide $138 million to crab fishermen along our coast to help them through this horrific season," says Representative Jackie Speier, (D) San Mateo.
"Our fishing families can't catch a break. They've just come off a terrible salmon year and then to experience a complete loss with Dungeness crab, which has always been the staple; always been that lucrative fishery they could count on," says Representative Jared Huffman, (D) North Bay.
"Without that fleet there, we don't access this ocean full of food. And, we have to keep this fleet going so that we have access to the best food on the planet," says Captain Larry Collins, President of the Crab Fishermen’s Association.
Besides this legislation, two other important things are needed. First, the Obama administration has to formally declare what has happened a disaster.
"I've been fishing 30 years and I've never seen it as bad as this," says Captain Collins. Second, the U.S. Congress has to pass the Speier-Huffman bill and a sister bill in the Senate authored by Senator Barbara Boxer.
Representative Speier warns that much of the Republican-controlled Congress is hostile to California; the bluest of blue states.
"California has a reputation in Washington. It's called ABC— anywhere but California. because we have the population. We have the economic growth," says Congresswoman Speier.
Nonetheless, the catastrophe to fishermen is real. 25-years ago, there were than 5,000 commercial salmon and crab California Fishermen. Today, there are barely more than 400.