Republican Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn have signaled an effort to strip from a $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill today the $150 million targeted for fisheries disaster funding — the bulk of which would go to the five coastal New England states and New York whose fishermen work the Atlantic for groundfish.
The Northeast fishing industry, including groundfishermen working out of Gloucester, was recognized as an economic “disaster” in September by the acting secretary of Commerce, based on stock and economic assessments and projected draconian catch limits for 2013. But the Commerce disaster declaration did not come backed by any emergency funding, so federal lawmakers worked to add fisheries disaster money onto the Sandy emergency aid bill.
The Sandy relief bill and its amendments — including coverage for fisheries disasters — draws toward the nation’s center stage a struggle for survival by the groundfishermen of the Northeast, centered around Gloucester and New Bedford.