Following the devastating decision by the New England Fishery Management Council last week to drastically reduce catch shares for cod in the Gulf of Maine and the continued lack of action by the Department of Commerce to deal with the fisheries disaster declared in 2012, Congressman John Tierney (D-MA) announced new legislation to provide disaster relief to our fishermen and direct funding to scientific research to find a long-term solution. This bill does not increase spending, as it is financed through revenues already collected on imported fish products.
"From Gloucester, Massachusetts to Mississippi to Alaska, fishermen in several states are facing near catastrophic economic situations. Despite the Department of Commerce's recognition of these disasters with emergency declarations in 2012, sufficient relief still has not been provided. This is unacceptable. Fishermen in my district and across the country deserve better," Congressman Tierney said.
"The bill I plan to offer is just the beginning of the comprehensive reform that is needed, but it is a creative and responsible solution to help provide immediate disaster relief to fishermen and ensure that funding is directed to research in the longer-term."
"Congress must take bold and immediate action to protect this historic industry. I will be aggressively pressing my colleagues to move this common sense legislation quickly, while also continuing my efforts to pass comprehensive reforms to the Magnuson-Stevens Act and hold NOAA and the Department of Commerce accountable to our fishing community," Tierney concluded.
Congressman Tierney's Fisheries Disaster Relief and Research Investment Act would:
Allocate the funds directed to the Department of Commerce under the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act only in Fiscal Year 2014 to be used for assistance to those states affected by fishery disasters declared by the Secretary of Commerce in calendar year 2012. (While the specific amount that would be generated in 2014 is not yet known, it is worth noting that in Fiscal Year 2013 the amount directed to Commerce under Saltonstall-Kennedy was $124 million; and in Fiscal Year 2012, it was $109 million)
Beginning in Fiscal Year 2015, the bill would direct those same funds to research, and put fisheries research, monitoring, and data collection in the hands of regional management councils by requiring multi-stakeholder regional committees, authorized by the bill and appointed by the nation's eight fishery management councils, to develop plans to identify priorities for investment in each region. The committees would use those priorities to evaluate and recommend grants for funding.
The Saltonstall-Kennedy Act of 1954 ensured that a percentage of tariffs on imported fish products go to benefit and improve our domestic fishing industry. Since then, these funds have been inappropriately redirected to the operations fund at NOAA, depriving our nation's fisheries of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.