On September 14, 2018, Hurricane Florence hit Wrightsville Beach as a Category 1, dropping nearly 36-inches of rain in four days. Florence’s diameter measured roughly 400-miles, approximately the size of four Ohios put together. By the end of its run, the initial estimates said the storm caused nearly $24 billion in total damages and claimed 53 lives.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) later concluded that Florence created $38 million in damages, $56.5 million in lost revenue, and 3,500 jobs lost to commercial fishing operations, seafood processors and dealers, aquaculture operations, for-hire businesses, and bait and tackle shops. On December 3, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed the Hurricane Florence Relief Package into law, which appropriated $11.6 million to the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Marine Fisheries and distributed 1,176 checks to commercial fishers until funds were exhausted.
In March 2020, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries was informed that it is eligible for an additional $7,728,000 in federal fishery disaster assistance. In response, the DMF has released its draft spending plan for seafood processors and dealers, for-hire fishing businesses, bait and tackle shops, and ocean fishing piers that were not compensated by earlier $11.6 million state-funded payments.
NOAA Fisheries must review and approve the DMF’s draft spending plan before disaster assistance monies can be allocated to eligible recipients, and commercial fishermen and shellfish harvesters that experienced income losses and harvest reductions during Hurricane Florence eagerly await NOAA’s response.