NEWPORT The announcement of $5 million in disaster aid for the West Coast fishing industry last week was good news to Onno Husing, director of the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association.

The association represents coastal counties, cities, ports, and soil and water conservation districts.

Congress earmarked the funds for community assistance, including family and credit counseling, retraining and other short term measures for fishing families caught in the transition of the West Coast groundfish fishery.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is considering a plan to cut the fleet by half. Husing had been working on a fishery disaster planning effort since November.

When he heard of the appropriation, he said, First, we look forward to President Clinton signing the bill.

Second, he said, Then we have to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the three West Coast states to establish a fair and fast way to get those funds to the people that need them the most: fishing families in trouble.

We are greatly encouraged by this timely appropriation, he said, The funds will help deserving families. But, our work is far from over.

We must persuade Congress in the fiscal year 2001 budget to address the two underlying causes of the West Coast fishing industry crisis: a lack of adequate scientific research and the over capitalization of the fishing fleet. There are too many vessels, he said.

Unless we make progress on research and fleet over capitalization, he said, The pain and economic chaos on West Coast waterfronts will continue and be far worse than it needs to be.

Investing in a managed transition in the fishery will cost the American taxpayer far less money in the long run, he said, And its the right thing to do.

Husing credited Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith for the disaster relief.

Wyden said, When the groundfish population took a nosedive, many Oregon fishermen and their families faced devastating losses, which only threaten to get worse.

Smith said, This funding represents the first installment in what I hope will be a more comprehensive plan for helping Oregons fishing families and restoring groundfish populations off our coast.

Husing also thanked the entire West Coast congressional delegation and the governors of Oregon, Washington and California for contributing to the bipartisan effort.

All three states need to pull together in the months ahead to make even more progress, he said.