Title IV of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments (43 U.S.C. 1841 et seq.) established the Fishermen’s Contingency Fund (FCF) to compensate commercial fishermen for property or economic loss caused by oil and gas activities on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.
The Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA) wants to be sure that all shrimp fishermen are fully aware that this program remains fully funded and operational, and that they can file claims and receive compensation for certain losses that occur in Federal waters.
While funds used to provide this compensation are derived from fees collected by the Secretary of the Interior from the holders of oil and gas leases, exploration permits, easements, or rights-of-way in areas of the Outer Continental Shelf and placed into the Federal Treasury, actual disbursements from the FCF can be made only to the extent authorized by Congress in appropriation acts. In FY 2018, consistent with the NMFS budget request, Congress provided $349,000 for the payment of claims filed by fisherman under this program.
The FCF program is administered by NOAA Office of Financial Services. As described on the program website (https://www.fisheries.noaa.
gov/national/funding-and- financial-services/fishermens- contingency-fund-program):
The fund was established in the U.S. Treasury, without fiscal year limitation, as a revolving fund comprised of assessments paid by offshore oil and gas interests. Fishermen who can prove that they suffered losses in income due to inability or reduced capacity to fish as a result of the damage sustained may be eligible for compensation for economic loss and property loss or damage. Compensation for economic loss is based on 50 percent of gross income lost, rather than loss of profits.
The Fishermen’s Contingency Fund requires commercial fishermen to file a report to NOAA Fisheries within 15 days after the date on which the vessel first returns to port after discovering the damage or loss in order to gain presumption of causation. After this initial report is filed, a claim must be submitted within 90 days of the date the loss or damage was discovered. Claims should include specific vessel and crew information, a full statement of the circumstances concerning the damage or loss, the amount claimed for property damage or loss, a full statement of the type and extent of damage, and the amount claimed, with supporting documentation, for any economic loss.
The FCF program website also provides the following links to the two forms that must be filed:
- Fishermen’s Contingency Fund 15-day Report (pdf)
- Fishermen’s Contingency Fund Claim Application (pdf)
SSA has been in communication with the FCF Program administrator, Mr. Chris McEntee, to confirm that the 40-year old program is still up and running and that it continues to process claims each year from shrimp fishermen. According to Mr. McEntee, some important points to be aware of:
- Claims can only be processed for losses that occurred in federal waters. In the Gulf of Mexico, federal waters begin 3 miles off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and 9 miles off the coasts of Texas and west coast of Florida.
- While there is no cap on the amount of a claim, claims are evaluated on the basis of ‘reasonableness’ based on the Program’s long experience with such claims and knowledge of the fishery. Claims for specific losses (eg. actual cost of a new net, actual income losses) may be verified by the Program staff if a claim appears unreasonable
- Although the 15-day form says that it must be filed within 15 days of returning to port, Mr. McEntee indicates that this is an error and that the form should be filed within 15 days of the actual incident. It may be possible for shoreside employees and family members to file this form if the vessel is still offshore on a trip. Alternatively, Mr. McEntee indicated that he would accept a phone call within the 15-day period provided the form is filed later on.
- Mr. McEntee agreed to make himself available to answer any questions and to assist shrimpers with filling out the required forms and filing their claims. His direct line at NMFS headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland is: 301-427-8769. His email is: christopher.mcentee@noaa.