Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Edward J. Markey, Bill Keating, and John Tierney, joined by U.S. Senators John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren, today sent a letter to John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, urging him to help protect Massachusetts fishermen from the effects of looming cuts to harvest quotas for cod and haddock in the Gulf of Maine. The letter follows still ongoing efforts by the Massachusetts delegation to include fishery disaster relief funding in an emergency appropriations bill that is now before the U.S. Senate.
In the absence of emergency disaster relief assistance, the lawmakers ask fishing regulators to explore other options to assist fishing companies and communities. In the letter, the lawmakers ask Mr. Bullard to reconsider the decision to reject the New England Fishery Management Council's request to implement an interim measure for Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod and haddock to reduce over fishing in 2013. The lawmakers believe the council's recommended measure will prevent the collapse of GOM fisheries and assist in the rehabilitation of fish stocks.
The letter also contains a request that Mr. Bullard immediately provide a detailed plan describing the actions he will take to mitigate the adverse economic impacts of the decision and "include consideration of carry-over of the maximum possible amount of unused quota for the 2012 season, greater retention and reopening negotiations with Canada on transboundary stocks of haddock and yellowtail flounder."
"We are concerned about our small boat fishermen, who are the core of our most important fishing communities, and depend upon species like cod and haddock in the near shore waters of the Gulf of Maine," write the lawmakers. "Without swift action, our fishermen are left with few if any options in the face of severe reductions in catch limits."
The lawmakers also note that "changes in the ocean environment are making an already difficult situation more challenging."
In September 2012, the Secretary of Commerce declared an economic disaster for the Northeast Multispecies (groundfish) Fishery, one of several fishery disasters declared across the country last year. While the Senate passed a measure that included $150 million in emergency aid for communities hit by these disasters, House Republicans refused to allow a vote on similar proposals offered by Markey, Keating, and Tierney earlier this month.