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Trawlers at a port in New England. (Photo: NOAA)

DOC declares national fishery disaster in New England

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Friday, September 14, 2012, 02:00 (GMT + 9)

The US Commerce Department (DOC) has responded to governors’ request and declared a national fishery disaster in New England. The move makes possible relief funds worth tens of millions of dollars for commercial fishers and their communities.

The declaration follows a request by governors of four New England states -- Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine -- to the US Government for USD 100 million to provide immediate disaster relief for fishers.

US Senator John Kerry said he's secured a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to include USD 100 million for fishers and fishing communities in emergency assistance legislation. The job now is to fight for the money in a Congress that may be unwilling, AP reports.

Due to recent estimates of key groundfish stocks showing severely low numbers, the catch limits for the 2013 fishing year have been reduced and many fishers may be forced to leave the industry. Groundfish season begins on 1 May.

Maine Governor Paul LePage, one of the governors asking for disaster relief, pointed out that fishers will be up against "significant" cuts next year in catch limits for several species including cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder, MPBN reports.

The quota cuts – which in some cases will be as high as 73 per cent – follow the findings of recent stock assessments showing that the population levels of several groundfish species are much lower than previously thought, LePage said.

To support their constituents, the governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine this week sent a letter to the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate highlighting the serious and urgent need for funds to help commercial fishers.

“Our fishers cannot afford to wait any longer for critical economic assistance,” the governors declared, South Coast Today reports.

In August, the Massachusetts congressional delegation requested that the federal government issue a disaster declaration on behalf of fishers in New England.

The funds would be used to offer immediate economic assistance to fishers as well as “targeted investments” to obtain a longer-term effect, Sullivan added.

The USD 100 million request also includes funds to improve fishery science, Kerry said.

Related article:

New England may introduce disaster relief programme

By Natalia Real

Photo Courtesy of FIS Member  NOAA GCEL

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