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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I rise in support of efforts to restore to the supplemental appropriations bill $150 million in disaster funding for officially declared fisheries disasters. The bill that the Senate passed in December, with overwhelming bipartisan support, included this $150 million in necessary disaster funding to address federally declared fisheries disasters. Unfortunately, the bill before us, passed by the House, did not include this critical funding.
It is important to note that this funding would be used to respond to fishery disasters declared by the Acting Commerce Secretary in 2012 under the authority provided by the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act. This is authorized funding in response to declared disasters.
The funding for declared fisheries disasters is necessary to address the devastating economic consequences of significant projected reductions in the total allowable catch for critical groundfish stocks. In September of last year, the Acting Secretary of Commerce, recognizing the economic difficulty that fishing communities have and will continue to face, declared a Federal fisheries disaster for Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Connecticut for the 2013 fishing year.
Fishing is more than just a profession in New England. Fishing is a way of life and a significant part of Maine's heritage. There are 45 vessels based in Maine that are actively fishing with Federal groundfish permits. Last year, more than 5 million pounds of groundfish, with a dockside value approaching $5.8 million, were landed in Maine. The projected reductions, which may be as high as 73 percent, could devastate these fishing communities and come despite strict adherence to rigorous management practices by fishermen.
The requested funding would be used to provide economic relief to the region's struggling groundfish industry and to make targeted investments that will allow the fleet to survive and become more sustainable in the years ahead. These funds could also be productively used to fully cover the costs of at-sea monitoring and to address long-term overcapacity in the fishing industry. This is critical to rebuilding fish stocks and preserving a thriving fishing industry well into the future.
Slow recovery and declining fish stocks continue to have a negative impact on commercial fishing, harming local communities and economies. This Federal disaster assistance is vital to the long-term success and short-term survival of fishing communities throughout the region.
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