Both U. S. senators from Massachusetts agree on the need to reform the federal Saltonstall-Kennedy Act, but Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey have adopted different strategies for arriving at that goal.
One thing seems clear: Neither Warren nor Markey appear ready to file a specific Saltonstall-Kennedy reform bill in the Senate’s current session.
The Bay State senators offered alternative means for pursuing Saltonstall-Kennedy reform this week when directly asked whether they plan to file specific legislation to reform the federal act that dates to 1954 and was designed to fund research and improve the nation’s fisheries and fishing industry.
Warren sees the road to Saltonstall-Kennedy reform going through the ongoing reauthorization process for the over-arching Magnuson-Stevens Act that governs and regulates the nation’s fisheries and fishing industry.
“Sen. Warren strongly supports reforming NOAA and the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act,” said Warren spokeswoman Lacey Rose. “During the current reauthorization process of the Magnuson Stevens Act, Sen. Warren is working with colleagues and constituents on making reforms that address the fishing industry as a whole and the many problems that have plagued the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act.”
Markey’s preference is to pursue Saltonstall-Kennedy reform through the appropriations process for the Department of Commerce, rather than through filing a bill.
“The Senate Commerce appropriations bill reflects an important step forward in reforming the Saltonstall-Kennedy grant program, and I will be fighting to make sure it is included in the final appropriations legislation,” Markey said in a prepared statement. “I also will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that we secure disaster funding for the New England groundfish fishery.”
Neither response offered specific areas within Saltonstall-Kennedy that should be targeted for reform, nor did they explain why their preferred methods for pursuing reform make the most sense.
The senators’ reticence to file a specific Saltonstall-Kennedy reform bill leaves the bill filed last February by Congressman John Tierney — which listed then-Rep. Markey as a co-sponsor — as the only specific legislative measure filed by a member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation seeking direct reform of Saltonstall-Kennedy.
That bill, titled the Fisheries Disaster Relief and Research Investment Act, directly addresses what many in the fishing industry believe to be the element of Saltonstall-Kennedy requiring the most acute reform — the siphoning of million of dollars from tariffs on imported fish products to fund the operations of NOAA, instead of being used to benefit and improve the U.S. fishing industry and potentially provide financial assistance to the communities so ravaged by the industry’s freefall.
Tierney’s bill, still mired in the House’s Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Subcommittee, would provide immediate financial assistance to Massachusetts and other states already declared as fisheries disasters by the Secretary of Commerce.
It would fund that assistance in the current fiscal year through the import duties generated by the tariffs on imported fish products.
It also calls for the permanent return of the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act to its original intent of using the funds generated by the tariffs to fund research grants and other programs to help rebuild and sustain the nation’s fisheries.
NOAA has agreed to allocate up to $10 million in tariff revenue through the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act to provide grants for fishermen and fishing communities seeking to advance the industry and carry out transitions along their waterfronts. And the agency has received 261 applications, including seven grants from six applicants out of Gloucester.
A full allocation of the money called for under the 1954 Act, however, would have provided the fishing industry and fishing communities with more than $100 million.
Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT