Written by Linc Bedrosian
September 14, 2012
With the Commerce Department's disaster declaration for the Northeast groundfish fishery, it's now up to Congress to appropriate the $100 million being sought to help the region's fishermen and fishing communities weather substantial harvest cuts for key species like cod and yellowtail flounder in 2013.
"This is a big deal for our fishermen and the entire industry because it paves the way for the financial assistance that will determine whether they can stay open for business," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in a press statement. "This is exactly what we needed to strengthen our hand as we continue to go after the funding."
Word is that the disaster relief funds would be included in an emergency assistance bill for drought-plagued farmers. Congress is slated to take up the bill in the encouragingly named lame-duck session after the November elections.
"If and when money is approved by the members of Congress," Massachusetts State Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), the Senate Minority leader, said in a statement posted on his website, "the focus must be on preserving the industry from capsizing rather than expediting its end by focusing on consolidation measures and buy-outs."
One would hope Congress sees fit to allocate the disaster relief funds. As Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank noted in her letter to Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick announcing the fishery disaster declaration, fishermen are co-operating with regulations designed to rebuild troubled groundfish stocks. Climate changes and ecosystem shifts appear to be preventing the fish from doing their part.
Our elected officials in Washington were able to find billions of dollars to bail out Wall Street, banks and automobile manufacturers. Surely they can scrounge up $100 million to help this iconic fishery and the region's fishing communities.
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