Massachusetts Congressional Delegation Asks Commerce Department to Declare Massachusetts Disaster Area in Wake of Red Tide Crisis
Senator John Kerry along with Senator Edward Kennedy, Congressmen Barney Frank, John Tierney, William Delahunt, Jim McGovern, and Stephen Lynch joined together today to ask Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to expedite a disaster analysis of Essex, Plymouth, Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes and Nantucket counties.
The Commerce Department can declare Massachusetts a disaster area under the Magnuson-Stevens Act so that fishermen may be eligible for direct assistance when funds become available.
John Kerry said, "The shell fishing industry in Massachusetts has taken a major blow due to this natural catastrophe, the worst red tide plume to hit Massachusetts in three decades. Disaster declarations in Massachusetts coastal fishing communities will help families get on the road to recovery. We cannot afford any bureaucratic red tape or delays. "
Senator Kennedy said, "It is critical that Secretary Gutierrez declare a commercial fishing failure so that relief can be administered to our fisherman and their families as quickly as possible. Massachusetts relies heavily upon the fishing industry and the economic vitality that it creates. We must do all we can to address this crisis."
Congressman Frank said "It is critical that the Federal Government act quickly to employ any and all measures at its disposal to help alleviate the disastrous economic effects this Red Tide outbreak is having on the fishing industry, and I am pleased to join in this letter to help accomplish that goal."
Congressman Tierney said, "During this difficult time for Massachusetts fisherman, I am pleased to be joining my colleagues in an effort to garner direct federal assistance so that we can provide urgent financial relief to fisherman, their families and the local economy affected by the closure of shellfish beds impacted by red tide."
"This year's red tide outbreak is a tremendous problem," Representative McGovern said. "It's vital to our economic well-being that the federal government provide the necessary assistance. I hope the Commerce Department will treat this issue with the attention it deserves."
Congressman Stephen F. Lynch said, "Fishermen, businesses and families are all affected by this devastating red tide outbreak, and we have a responsibility to help them weather this difficult economic time. The entire Massachusetts Delegation is committed to ensuring that Washington understands the magnitude of this situation and its impact on the entire region, and that emergency assistance funds are delivered as soon as possible."
Attached is the letter sent to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez:
June 9, 2005
The Honorable Carlos M. Gutierrez Secretary U.S. Department of Commerce 14th & Constitution Ave. NW Washington, DC 20230
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We are writing on behalf of the thousands of Massachusetts fishermen and their families in Essex, Plymouth, Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes and Nantucket counties who have been affected by the closure of shellfish beds due to red tide. As you know, Massachusetts waters are being plagues by the worst outbreak of red tide since 1972, which has resulted in the closure of most shellfish areas in the state. And while the length of the closure is unknown, it is expected some areas will remain closed for up to another month.
The situation is so extreme that we are writing to urge you to declare a commercial fishery failure, as provided for under Section 312 (a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, to provide financial relief for the individuals, businesses and communities affected by the fishery resource disaster.
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries estimates the closures are currently affecting about 1,700 full- and part-time commercial fishermen. Shellfish aquaculture occurs in 11 affected towns involving 241 growers at 289 sites. In addition, the quahog- dredge fishery, which involves 8 boats (16 people), and the surf clam fishery, which has 11 boats (22 people), are also affected. Altogether, the total landed value for all commercial shellfishing and shellfish aquaculture in the currently closed areas is $600,000 per week. This represents a potential loss of $2,700,000 weekly to the local economy resulting from the red tide. Such economic losses would be catastrophic for fishing families and for fishing dependent communities. The situation for others, including processors, port communities and related on-shore businesses will be disastrous.
We urge you to instruct NOAA Fisheries to expedite preparation of a disaster analysis and your immediate disaster declaration. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
John F. Kerry Ted Kennedy Stephen Lynch John F. Tierney William Delahunt Barney Frank Jim McGovern