Congresswoman Chellie Pingree continues to push for critical aid to help Maine shellfish harvesters after a disastrous red tide outbreak closed the industry for months in 2009. Late last week, she asked Congressional leaders to fund disaster relief funding for the upcoming budget year.
"We knew this was a disaster when we were in the midst of it in 2009. It's been two years now, and harvesters still have not received any help for the tens of millions of dollars they lost that year," said Pingree. "This funding is critical to the thousands of Maine people and dozens of communities who make their living from shellfish harvesting. I'm very disappointed that we still have not given them the support they need and deserve."
Maine's shellfish harvesting industry supports about 3,000 harvesters and dealers and brings over $50 million to local economies each year.
In 2009, Maine had one of the most severe red tides in recent history, resulting in closures of up to 97 percent of the fisheries for weeks on end. Closing the fisheries cost the state a million dollars a week.
After the 2009 disaster, Pingree pushed Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to officially designate the season as a disaster entitled to relief funding. The Department granted the designation in late 2010.
Pingree wrote a letter to the House Appropriations Committee last February asking that funding be appropriated as soon as possible, and last week made a specific request for funding for all fisheries disasters in for the 2012 budget year.