Written by Linc Bedrosian
CHATHAM — State fishery officials came into town Thursday night looking for ideas on how to spend $8.2 million in federal aid intended to help struggling fishermen.
For years, the Cape's fishing fleet has suffered steep financial losses as iconic fish stocks such as cod were not rebuilding as expected and as fishermen were dealt drastic cuts in their quotas.
In 2012, then-Commerce Secretary Rebecca Lent officially issued a fisheries disaster declaration in New England. Finally this year, Congress approved a $32.8 million aid package to six New England states, with Massachusetts receiving $14.5 million of the initial two rounds of a $22 million disbursement.
Chatham fishermen at the Thursday meeting were highly critical of the first phase of the aid package, which will soon issue a $32,000 check to each of the 191 qualifying permit holders whose vessels each caught at least 5,000 pounds of cod, haddock, flounder or other bottom-feeding fish, known collectively as groundfish, in any one year between 2010 and 2013. Fishermen said many on the Cape, which once had one of the top cod and groundfish ports in the country in Chatham, didn't qualify for the direct aid. In recent years, they had to fish for other species, like dogfish and skate, because there were no more cod.
"This (aid package) took care of a lot of guys who came into the business in the last three years. They're going to get a lot of money," said Chatham fisherman Mike Abdow. "I sold my permit in 2011 because I didn't get enough quota, and there were no fish out there."
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