More than 150 members or allies of the fishing industry governed by the Northeast Regional Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have petitioned the Senate Appropriations Committee to stop all funding for the Gloucester headquarters and to reallocate “any salvaged” money for relief of the “disaster” that has befallen the industry as officially recognized more than eight months ago.
Since the September 2012 disaster declaration, issued by then acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, repeated pleas for help made by numerous political leaders — including Gov. Deval Patrick and Congressman John Tierney — to the White House have gone for naught.
Among the signers of the petition were a number of Cape Ann fishermen including Hilary Dombrowski, Ignazio Sanfilippo, Thomas Testaverde, Stebastian Brancaleone, William Skrobacz, Mark Byard, Accursio Sanfilipo, Richard Burgess, Edward Smith and Darren Twombly.
Support for the petition, however, is spread across the nation, and includes industry representatives from Alaska, North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, Oregon, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.
Petitioners of prominence include Richie Canastra, co-owner of BASE New England, the region’s largest fish auction and Carlos Raphael, who owns the largest feet of groundfishing and scalloping boats in the region. Both are from the greater New Bedford area.
The petition drive began in February with the names sent last week to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the committee.
Mikulski herself voiced the idea of closing the Northeast Regional Office last year out of frustration at the refusal of NOAA’s regional office to respond to requests and directives from the administration and Congress, and its alleged ignoring of the interests of the Chesapeake Bay area.
Mikulski said it made sense to move the Northeast regional office from Gloucester, which is housed in a new Blackburn Industrial Park building that opened in 2009 and built for NOAA at a cost of $13 million.