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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I am pleased to be a cosponsor of the amendment sponsored by my friend from Alaska, Senator Murkowski, which would provide $150 million in disaster funding for officially declared fisheries 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 fishing communities have faced 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. This authority is provided under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act.
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 which are actively fishing with Federal groundfish permits. Last year, more than five million pounds of groundfish, with a dockside value approaching $5.8 million, were landed in Maine. Despite strict adherence to rigorous management practices by fishermen, the projected reductions, which may be as high as 73 percent, could devastate groundfishing communities.
The requested funding would be used to provide economic relief to the region's struggling groundfish industry and to make targeted investments which will allow the fleet to survive and become more sustainable in the years ahead. These funds could also be 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, which harms 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.
I urge adoption of the amendment.