In a step that could lead to the first federal financial assistance to Massachusetts’ fishing-related businesses, Gov. Deval Patrick has officially certified the widespread economic hardship imposed on Massachusetts fishing communities by the fishery disaster proclaimed a year ago by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
That assistance, if recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration, would come in the form of low-interest loans to approved Bay State fishermen and fishing-related businesses.
In a letter to Frank Skaggs, the director of the SBA’s disaster assistance office, Patrick certified that small businesses in six Massachusetts counties, including Essex County, “suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the fishery resource disaster.”
Patrick also pointed out that the degree of economic injury to fishermen and commercial fishing-related businesses is so severe “that financial assistance at reasonable rates and terms is not otherwise available, thereby creating the necessity for federal involvement in the form of subsidized loans from the Small Business Administration.”
The low-interest loan program, if approved by the SBA, would be the federal government’s first firm commitment of financial assistance to the industry that has been ravaged by NOAA’s Draconian cuts to to the allowable catch quotas for many of the ground fishing species traditionally fished by the Gloucester commercial fleet.