Massachusetts Delegation and Governor Patrick Welcome Disaster Declaration for Fishermen


By:  Ed Markey Deval Patrick Bill Keating Barney Frank Scott Brown John Tierney John Kerry
Date: Sept. 13, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry and the Massachusetts Delegation, along with Governor Deval Patrick today applauded President Obama for issuing a major disaster declaration for Massachusetts. This declaration will pave the way for funding from Congress. Senator Kerry has been working to secure $100 million in financial assistance for the fishermen and fishing communities in the state who have been directly affected by drought.

"I spoke with Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank this morning, and she shared the great news that our calls for help have been answered and a disaster declaration for our fishing industry in Massachusetts has been granted," said Sen. Kerry.

"This is a big deal for our fishermen and the entire industry because it paves the way for the financial assistance that will determine whether they can stay open for business. This is exactly what we needed to strengthen our hand as we continue to go after the funding. I've been in close touch with Leader Reid and I'm working with the New England Delegation to obtain $100 million in economic disaster assistance. Our fishermen are the farmers of the sea and today our fishermen are facing exactly what farmers in the Midwest are facing -- a drought. Instead of a lack of rain, our fishermen are facing a lack of fish. Our fishermen and fishing communities did not cause this drought, but they need our help to get through it."

"For years I have engaged federal officials on the importance of providing a disaster declaration for our fishermen and fishing communities, who have been struggling due to the transition to catch shares and declining groundfish stocks. I am extremely pleased that today, the Department of Commerce has taken an important first step to validate my request for a disaster declaration," said Gov. Patrick. "This declaration is more critical than ever as coastal communities brace for possible additional cuts to the region's groundfishery next year. I want to give special thanks to the leadership of President Obama, and I stand ready to work with my fellow Northeast governors and Congressional leaders to ensure our fishermen receive the financial assistance they desperately need to sustain this vital industry."

"After two years of delay, I am relieved that the Commerce Department has finally responded to our many calls for a disaster declaration," said Sen. Brown. "Our fishing communities are suffering and they need a relief package. However, I want to be clear that the long term solution to this crisis is reforming NOAA and its policies that created this situation in the first place. I will continue working to protect the jobs of Massachusetts fisherman now and into the future."

"This economic disaster is New England's underwater equivalent of a drought, where the drops in stocks of fish are causing serious economic harm to fishing businesses, their families, and their communities. These people need help," said Rep. Markey. "I appreciate that Dr. Blank and Dr. Lubchenco have moved swiftly to address the extreme hardship faced by New England fishermen and coastal communities. Now it is up to Congress to show the leadership necessary to provide economic relief in the short term as we continue working with the industry, scientists, and resource managers to rebuild our fish stocks.

"Stronger conservation measures instituted over the last few years have not been enough. We need a comprehensive approach that looks not just at fishing pressure, but also steps up our scientific efforts to understand the significant changes taking place in New England's ocean due to global warming," Markey added. "I look forward to working with NOAA and the Commerce Department to ensure that disaster assistance funds appropriated by Congress help fishing families, while taking the steps necessary to make the New England groundfish fishery sustainable once and for all."

"Given the situation in which the fishing industry has been put, this disaster declaration is an important step towards alleviating some of the economic damage we face," said Rep. Frank. "I am pleased that our Congressional delegation is able to join with the industry and state officials in making this request and I welcome the Administration's favorable action. We will now all be working hard to make sure that the necessary funding is provided to make this effective. It should be noted that this comes at a time when there is a widespread consensus that financial relief from the federal government should go towards farmers victimized by drought, and there is absolutely no justification for denying such assistance to the hardworking people in the fishing industry, as a matter of basic fairness.

The fundamental issue remains the flawed structure of fishing regulation, and the statute under which it is carried out, and correcting this situation remains a very important task for Congress in the immediate future."

"While I am pleased the Department of Commerce has finally issued a formal disaster declaration for our fishing community, it should have happened much sooner and not have required so many requests from me, my colleagues in Congress, and other interested stakeholders," said Rep. Tierney. "I am committed to working with my Senate and House colleagues as quickly and aggressively as I can to get Congress to appropriate the necessary disaster funding for our fishermen, but by issuing this declaration with only a few legislative days remaining before the November elections Commerce did not give us much time to act. Still, I will be urging Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid to immediately bring forward legislation that provides this relief and I'm sure my Senate and House colleagues will join in that effort. Our fishing community has been waiting long enough."

"Today's announcement by the Department of Commerce is the first step toward securing the future of New England's fishermen," said Rep. Keating. "This declaration of a commercial fishery failure follows repeated calls from New England's congressional delegation and governors and opens the door for federal financial assistance to the Northeast groundfish fishery. While this declaration is a positive step, it is also only a short-term solution. Once we work to secure the disaster relief, we need to refocus our efforts on long-term solutions that will prevent the need for disaster relief in the future."

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