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Letter to Acting Secretary Blank

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

At the urging of U.S. Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressman Tim Bishop, the U.S. Department of Commerce today declared a federal groundfish fishery disaster for New York's fishing communities. The lawmakers requested emergency relief after a recent preliminary report projected significant cuts--up to 70 percent-- in catch limits for New England groundfish stocks in 2013. These cuts to multispecies fishery, such as cod and yellowtail flounder, would harm Long Island's businesses and fishermen, who are already struggling and being squeezed by catch limits and tighter regulations. This move by the Department of Commerce allows Congress to appropriate funding to ease the hardships faced by New York's fishermen.

In August, Senators Schumer, Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop wrote in a letter to Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank, "We write to express strong support for a Northeast Multispecies groundfish fishery disaster declaration to be issued for Northeast fishing communities, including those in New York… It is vitally important that New York is included in any disaster declaration and that our fishing communities are provided with sufficient disaster assistance to stem the adverse economic effects of potentially devastating cuts to already reduced catch limits and years of restrictive management measures. While recent reports have focused on New England states, we must emphasize the harmful impact these potential reductions will have on New York."

"Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Cong. Bishop have fought to keep New York's groundfishermen viable in this disaster declaration process, and have not allowed our lack of fishery council representation to silence the needs of our fishing communities," said Bonnie Brady, Executive Director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. "We are grateful for their voices as the bridge to disaster relief for all ground fishermen."

The lawmakers pushed to include New York in a federal fishery disaster declaration, noting that New York's fishing interests in New England stocks are often ignored due to its underrepresentation on the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC). Many of New York's fish stocks are regulated by this council, which will weigh in later this year on catch limits for 2013.

Full text of the letter is below:

Dear Acting Secretary Blank:

We write to express strong support for a Northeast Multispecies groundfish fishery disaster declaration to be issued for Northeast fishing communities, including those in New York, after the New England Fishery Management Council's (NEFMC) Groundfish Committee released a preliminary report indicating catch limits for New England groundfish stocks could be drastically reduced by as much as 70 percent in 2013.

It is vitally important that New York is included in any disaster declaration and that our fishing communities are provided with sufficient disaster assistance to stem the adverse economic effects of potentially devastating cuts to already reduced catch limits and years of restrictive management measures. While recent reports have focused on New England states, we must emphasize the harmful impact these potential reductions will have on New York.

Many Long Island commercial groundfishermen have already been forced off the water or into other fisheries due to the federal Southern New England (SNE) winter flounder possession ban in 2009. Southern New England winter flounder landings represented 80 percent of all groundfish landings on Long Island in 2008 and constituted a multi-million dollar fishery to Long Island's fishing communities. Further cuts to other groundfish stocks in the multispecies fishery, such as cod and yellowtail flounder, will jeopardize the future of already struggling fishermen and related businesses on Long Island.

A contributing factor to New York's difficulties in the New England region is its lack of representation on the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), even though many New York-landed fish stocks are regulated by the NEFMC. Without proper representation, New York's fishing interests in New England stocks are routinely ignored and we are greatly concerned that their interests in groundfish stocks may be overlooked when the NEFMC acts later this year on catch limits for 2013.

Our concern for New York's treatment is heightened by the fact that in multiple groundfish economic disaster aid packages and permit buy backs since 1994, New York fishermen were often excluded. Aid packages were instead focused on New England states with NEFMC representation, even though prior to the 2001 permit buyback, New York was third in groundfish landings behind Maine and Massachusetts. Since 2001, groundfish landings in NY have decreased by 50 percent.

We strongly urge you to take swift, decisive action to assist all fishing communities throughout the Northeast that will be affected by possible groundfish catch reductions. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


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