Governor Paul LePage has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce John E. Bryson calling for a federal fisheries disaster declaration for Maine's groundfish fleet. His request comes on the heels of a recently released report documenting the loss of jobs and revenue to Maine resulting from management changes in the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery.
"This report only confirmed what Maine fishermen and their families already knew far too well -- over time, Maine has suffered severe cumulative impacts that have decimated our groundfishing fleet," said Governor LePage. "Federal fisheries disaster relief is needed to assist this industry during these difficult times and ensure that when this fishery recovers, Maine can retain its rightful access to this resource."
In support of the request that was sent last week, the Governor provided information on the drastic reduction in the number of Maine vessels with revenue from groundfish fishing trips. Between 2009 and 2010, Maine suffered the greatest loss in the Northeast region, with a decline from 63 to 42 vessels, a 33% reduction.
He pointed also to the overall decline in groundfish landings in Maine, which have decreased from an overall high of nearly 28 million lbs in 1992, to slightly more than 3 million lbs in 2010. The loss of landings has jeopardized the future of Maine's most important piece of fisheries infrastructure, the Portland Fish Exchange.
Department of Marine Resources Acting Commissioner Patrick Keliher stated, "When you look at what has happened to the once vibrant Portland Fish Exchange, you know that there has been a fisheries disaster with tremendous consequences. Through sheer perseverance, the Exchange has managed to keep afloat under the most difficult of circumstances. But they can no longer afford to keep putting off much needed repairs and facility investments. This disaster declaration and subsequent financial assistance is needed to maintain the critical service they provide to this industry." Acting Commissioner Patrick Keliher affirmed that his staff is standing by to provide whatever further information is necessary to support Maine's request.