SEABROOK – A committee to examine a buyback program for the fishing industry could be organized as soon as this year, a federal official said, as fishermen prepare for one of their toughest seasons ever.

A portion of federal disaster relief funds announced last year will go to funding a committee to examine the buyback, said John Bullard, Northeast regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA is the federal organization that manages fishing regulations.

The funds are related to a fishery disaster declared in 2012 and 2013. Aid also went directly to vessels active during the disaster, among other factors, as well as to the states impacted.

Bullard said $200,000 of the aid will go to the study, which will be organized by a Massachusetts state agency. He said he hopes it will start this year.

Bullard said he’d wanted to use roughly $10 million of the relief funds for a buyback program immediately, but stakeholders were split on how to organize it, he said. Some wanted the money to be used to directly buy fishing permits, but others wanted aid to offset fees for an industry buyback that used government loans.

Industry members say the need for a buyback is more urgent than ever as regulations on groundfishing have gotten stricter every year.

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