Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, senior member of the Florida Congressional Delegation, contacted Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez asking him to reconsider his agency's decision to place a four month hold on grouper fishing and also to consider placing Florida in the Department's Fishery Resource Disaster Declaration to receive federal assistance due to the impact of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Ros-Lehtinen also asked for a personal meeting with the Secretary so they may discuss these important issues.
On September 18, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council adopted an interim rule for managing Red and Gag grouper imposing a four month hold for grouper fishing during the height of South Florida's tourist season. Ros-Lehtinen rightly pointed out to the Secretary the undue financial burden that this would have on countless individuals in her Congressional District and throughout South Florida.
The Congresswoman also asked Secretary Gutierrez to reconsider placing Florida in the list of States that can receive federal aid for their fisheries industry as damages to the spiny lobster trap fishing industry alone are estimated at $2.5 million in fishing equipment. The industry faces the possibility of suffering a product loss of approximately $7 million for 2008, and this translates into innumerable families losing their livelihoods.
Said Ros-Lehtinen, "How can we bail out Wall Street to the tune of almost one trillion dollars yet we are stifling our small business owners and their families. It is not fair and I will work with my colleagues to try and find a solution that will be acceptable to all sides.
My Congressional District, as well as the entire State of Florida, have sustained considerable losses due to an above normal hurricane season and a reduction in tourism so the federal government should be working hard to assist them and not force many into bankruptcy."