By Richard Gaines
A U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee has taken $119 million from President Obama's $5.1 billion request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the next fiscal year, and set it aside as requested by Sens. John Kerry for use on cooperative fisheries research, new stock assessment and other fishing issues.
The brief markup language in the budget bill that cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Justice last week limits use of the money to "fishery activities related to cooperative research, annual stock assessments, survey and monitoring projects, interjurisdictional fisheries grants, and fish information networks."
These were the authorized uses in the original Kennedy-Saltonstall Act of 1954, which called for providing 30 percent of seafood import tariffs for fisheries research and development, and in new legislation filed by Kerry and Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe to reset the terms of the old law. Over the decades, Congress allowed the tariff money to go instead to NOAA operations.
The language was inserted into the NOAA budget by the subcommittee headed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
The NOAA appropriations bill also discontinues funding for the Northeast Regional Office based in Gloucester. The bill, however, must pass the full Senate before going to the House, where changes are expected. Kerry last Thursday said he also opposed Mikulski's amendment to the NOAA appropriations bill that would defund the Northeast Division offices in Gloucester, and would ask her to remove it.
President Obama asked for $5.1 billion for NOAA for fiscal 2013, which begins Oct. 1. That amount would represent an increase of $153.9 million — or 3.1 percent — above the present budget for the agency.
TSpecific requests made by Kerry in a letter to Mikulski — that $2 million be set aside to underwrite an emergency survey of Gulf of Maine Cod, and that $1 million be used to reimburse legal costs of fishing industry victims of "enforcement abuses" — were not included in the markup language.
"I believe these funds should also be available to assist those who were hurt by the difficult transition to catch shares in New England," Kerry wrote to Mikulski. He also asked that part of the set-aside money be used to compensate commercial fishermen who were cheated out of their rightful allocation of catch shares by "mistaken" records or computer glitches.
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Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.