GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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March 31, 2011

Gloucester, other fishing ports, in line for new federal help

The U.S. Department of Commerce has acknowledged hardships caused by new federal fisheries management policies, and promised Wednesday that Gloucester and New England's other main commercial fishing ports will be getting immediate special attention and assistance.

"Economic development assessment teams will deploy next month to conduct a two-day analysis of six Northeast fishing communities," the department said in an announcement posted on the agency's web site just after noon.

In addition to Gloucester, New Bedford, Portland, Maine, Point Judith, R.I., Montauk, N.Y. and Seabrook, N.H. were notified they were chosen to participate in the economic development consultations.

The announcement said that Commerce teams would conduct meetings with local leaders to help identify economic development challenges and opportunities facing local industries and communities.

Commerce Department spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said there have been "no pledges of any specific followup resources."

The announcement, however, partially meets benchmark actions for relief sought by Sen. John Kerry, who characterized the announcement as "a step in the right direction."

Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who was briefed by the agency, said Gloucester and the other ports were selected based on the economic hardships they are enduring in the implementation of Amendment 16.

Based on commodifying the previously common wild resources, that federal regulatory framework and its catch shares system is destabilizing port economies through a radical consolidation of fishing capacity into a comparative handful of well-capitalized businesses, while marginalizing the smaller players, according to a research study by academic and government scientists for Gov. Deval Patrick.

Compounding the troubles, the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute researchers wrote, are unnecessarily low catch limits set by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which falls under the Commerce Department.

The governor's report was submitted to Locke, who, last October, had signaled a willingness to declare an economic disaster.

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