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Bill That Could Stabilize West Coast Crab Industry Heads To Trump's Desk

<p>Commercial fisherman Duncan MacLean holds up two crabs he just caught from his boat in Half Moon Bay, California, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008.</p>

Paul Sakuma


Commercial fisherman Duncan MacLean holds up two crabs he just caught from his boat in Half Moon Bay, California, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008.

Lawmakers in Congress passed a major win for West Coast crab fishermen that now goes to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature.

The bill permanently extends a tri-state fishery management agreement in Washington, Oregon and California.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., introduced the measure in 2014 and received bipartisan support, including a companion bill in the House of Representatives sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican who represents southwest Washington.

“The Dungeness crab fishery is an economic pillar of our coastal communities, supporting thousands of fishing and processing jobs,” Cantwell said in a prepared statement. “By preserving the tri-state agreement, we can sustainably manage our crab fisheries for many years.”

Crab populations can vary greatly by year and advocates say the agreement helps stabilize the industry. The tri-state agreement was first passed by Congress in 1998 and allows states to collectively manage the West Coast Dungeness crab industry in federal waters.

The rule originally included a clause that required West Coast states to return to Congress every 10 years to renew the agreement. The new bill removes that requirement and makes the management structure permanent.

“Without this legislation, our management could easily have been dramatically changed and thrown into chaos at some point,” said Dan Ayres, the Coastal Shellfish Manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Economically it is extremely important to our coast, especially to the small communities, where crab is definitely king," said Ayres.

Washington’s Dungeness crab industry brings in more than $60 million to the state each year and supports more than 60,000 maritime jobs. Along the West Coast, Ayres estimates a harvest of about 100 million pounds of crab this year.

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Molly Solomon