Almost six years after a white shrimp fishery disaster off the Georgia coast, the U.S. Department of Commerce released $1.062 million to help state fishers and companies affected.

“The Department of Commerce and (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) stand ready to support communities working to rebuild and rebound from fishery disasters,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement March 27. “We will continue to work closely with our partners to help American fishermen preserve their livelihoods.”

The money comes as part of an overall $20 million package to assist “tribes, communities, fishermen and businesses affected” by various fishery disasters not only in Georgia, but California, Oregon and Washington between 2013 and 2017.

According to the state Coastal Resources Division, September-December 2013 had a significant underabundance of white shrimp, which led to a 43 percent reduction in the fishery’s overall value compared to the five-year average.

Per a CRD statement, “CRD scientists believe abnormally heavy rainfall during the late spring and summer caused a white shrimp recruitment failure, meaning young shrimp did not survive to reach maturity. Exacerbating the situation was a higher than normal occurrence of black gill syndrome in the white shrimp population during the summer and early autumn.”

The federal assistance has been years in the works. The state petitioned the Commerce Department in 2014 to declare a disaster, which it did in August 2015. With Congress appropriating the money for relief, NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Region office is collaborating with the state to develop a plan for appropriate spending of the money to help affected communities.

John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, said in a statement, “Shrimp fishery disaster requests, determinations and congressional funding is something the Southern Shrimp Alliance pays very close attention to in Washington, D.C. We are pleased that this long-sought financial assistance will soon become available to Georgia’s shrimp fishermen and communities.”

At present, however, it’s not known when or how the $1.062 will be released to those affected.

CRD states it is waiting for further guidance and will announce the pertinent information once it becomes available.

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