Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, along with Congressmen Barney Frank, John Tierney, and William Keating, today urged U.S. Secretary of Commerce John E. Bryson to issue an economic disaster declaration for Massachusetts fishermen.
In a letter supporting Governor Deval Patrick's request yesterday for $21 million in disaster assistance for fishing communities negatively impacted by the federal "catch shares" program, the Massachusetts delegation members wrote, "We believe that the two reports released this week, in conjunction with previous, broader studies by federal agencies, show beyond a doubt that significant economic harm exists to our fishermen and our fishing communities that requires immediate action. This represents a dire threat to the historic place of fishing in the Massachusetts economy. Therefore, we agree with Governor Patrick that a disaster declaration should be declared and that $21 million in immediate, direct financial assistance is necessary to weather this disaster."
Following a field hearing in Boston last month examining the state of the fishing industry, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco agreed to an expedited review of the new disaster request in a letter to Senator Kerry. Commerce Secretary Bryson has also accepted the Senator's invitation to visit Massachusetts to meet directly with local fishermen.
The full text of the letter is below:
November 17, 2011
The Honorable John Bryson
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20230
The Honorable Jane Lubchenco
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230
Dear Secretary Bryson and Administrator Lubchenco:
We are writing in strong support of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' disaster declaration request and their renewed request for $21 million in federal fisheries disaster assistance for Massachusetts fishing communities impacted by the federal "catch shares" program.
In November 2010, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick requested a similar disaster declaration and also requested that the Department of Commerce provide $21 million in direct economic assistance to fishermen to alleviate the impact of the transition to catch shares. This request was also supported by the Massachusetts delegation. However, that request was denied due to a lack of more specific, targeted data.
The Commonwealth's new request is accompanied by two new economic reports: the Break-Even Analysis of the New England Groundfish Fishery for FY2009 and FY2010 and the Comparative Economic Survey and Analysis of Northeast Fishery Sector. These reports show significant financial losses and dramatic consolidation in the Massachusetts-based groundfish fleet.
The reports contain worrisome statistics that indicate the depth of the disaster relating to loss of jobs, revenue, and fleet diversity. The Sector 10 analysis in particular shows that some fishermen are bearing the brunt of the negative impacts even as the entire fleet may be seeing more nominal value from fewer fish. Between 2009 and 2010, Sector 10's groundfish landings declined 61 percent and groundfish gross revenue declined by 52 percent. Thirty percent of permit holders lost at least 80 percent of their net groundfish revenue, totaling $301,000. Fifty-two percent lost at least half of their revenue as compared to 2009, totaling $667,000. The Break-Even Analysis shows that at least 109 fewer vessels fished for groundfish in 2010 than in 2009.
We believe that the two reports released this week, in conjunction with previous, broader studies by federal agencies, show beyond a doubt that significant economic harm exists to our fishermen and our fishing communities that requires immediate action. This represents a dire threat to the historic place of fishing in the Massachusetts economy. Therefore, we agree with Governor Patrick that a disaster declaration should be declared and that $21 million in immediate, direct financial assistance is necessary to weather this disaster.
Thank you for your attention and your support for improving conditions for the fishermen throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We remain committed to preserving and promoting our fishing industry and to lessening the negative impacts of catch shares implementation on our small boat fishermen and their families. We look forward to continuing to work with you to quickly and effectively address these pressing concerns.
John Kerry Scott Brown
United States Senator United States Senator
Barney Frank John F. Tierney
Member of Congress Member of Congress
William R. Keating
Member of Congress