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December 3, 2012

Reps seek to tie fishing boost to Sandy aid

Congressman John Tierney and two colleagues today asked the House Appropriations Committee not to forget the Northeast groundfishing industry in the drafting of any disaster relief legislation for the Atlantic states ravaged in late October by superstorm Sandy.

Although no bill has been filed, Tierney spokeswoman Kathryn Prael said that, with the committee attempting to determine the needs of the states in recovering from Sandy in anticipation of possibly drafting legislation, the congressmen —Tierney, Barney Frank and William Keating — wanted to file a “marker” with the committee for a fishing industry that has descended into a government-recognized socioeconomic “disaster” over a number of years.

Tierney’s district includes Cape Ann, Frank represents New Bedford, and Keating’s district includes Cape Cod and the port along the curve of Massachusetts Bay.

On Sept. 13, nearly 10 months after Gov. Deval Patrick filed his second and more detailed request for a fisheries disaster declaration for Massachusetts, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank prospectively issued a regional fisheries disaster declaration covering the groundfishery beginning in May 2013. Patrick’s requests had also been followed by requests by the governors of New Hampshire and Maine and later Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York,

Funding any disaster recovery, however, was left to Congress. And immediately after the declaration, the region’s congressional delegation, led by Sen. John Kerry, asked Congress for $100 million, noting in a letter to Senate and House leaders that their “fishing communities have been struggling to survive amid federal regulations that have limited fishing opportunities.”

The Northeast groundfishery was re-engineered beginning in 2010 into what amounts to a commodity market trading in catch shares that has concentrated a greater share of the quota in the hands of bigger and better-capitalized businesses, while many smaller, independent boats that have long been at the heart of the industry have been driven to the sidelines, with an accompanying loss of jobs.

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