February 18, 2014
The word that Massachusetts will lose about $34 million in direct revenue through the decline in 2013 fish landings — and the estimate that direct and indirect revenue losses to the state’s fishing industry and fishing communities like Gloucester will be about $103 million — should not come as any surprise.
Those figures, outlined by Gov. Deval Patrick in a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, indeed show the level of economic disaster the state and its fishing communities are facing in the face of the continuing commercial fishing crisis, and stand on their own to emphasize the immediate need for the $75 million in federal disaster aid promised for six declared disasters, including the Northeast Groundfish fishery.
But the numbers, compiled through a state commission study, also drive home that this level of aid may not make a large dent in the level of crisis faced by fishermen out of Gloucester and elsewhere. And they make the case that any grant to Massachusetts fishermen through the Division of Marine Fisheries should not depend upon or be delayed for the state to kick in the expected 25 percent matching funding, as noted by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office last week.
In supporting the distribution of the aid, Patrick advanced a number of distribution strategies, including a “direct subsidy program to fishermen and fishing businesses to provide temporary relief and deal with immediate changes in fishery management” and “support crew and family services.”
That, indeed, should be the Department of Commerce’s and the state DMF’s chief priority — getting the aid directly to the fishermen and other businesses so as to get fishermen and crews alike back on the water and back to work.