By Sean Horgan
---- — In the first instance of state financial assistance focused directly on helping the Gloucester fishing industry, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr announced Tuesday that the city will receive a $75,000 state grant to develop a plan for sustaining the industry’s essential shore-side infrastructure.
The funds, part of a fiscal 2014 state budget allocation that also sent $75,000 to New Bedford, will be used to develop a groundfish Port Recovery and Revitalization Plan for Gloucester.
“My goal behind this is to suggest there are some absolutely linchpin resources around the harbor and if we don’t identify ways to protect them then we’re going to lose them,” Tarr said. “That will be a crippling blow to the fishing industry. Once those shore-side uses disappear, given the value of the property and the strategic importance of it, it’s very unlikely they will return.”
The funds became available after Tarr and Sen. Mark C. Montigny successfully worked to insert an amendment into the state budget. That amendment authorized $150,000 in state grants “to assist local fishing communities in identifying port infrastructure that is critical to the continued viability and sustainability of the local groundfish industry.”
Tarr said House Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante helped ensure that the amendment’s language remained in the final conference committee budget that went to Gov. Deval Patrick for his signature.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk welcomed the news of the grant, saying she hopes it represents the beginning of more federal and state aid to the city’s commercial fishing industry that has been ravaged by draconian federal cutbacks on allowable catch quotas and shifting ocean conditions in the Northeast multi-species fishery.
“There has been so much talk and such little action, so to have the actual grant for $75,000 is a wonderful thing,” Kirk said. “It shows that there is more than just talk to this — that it’s worth our money and our investment to try and help our fishermen.”
In its grant proposal, the city indicated it will work with the Urban Harbors Institute from the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Boston. That institute has a working familiarity with the Gloucester port from its contributions to the city’s 2009 harbor plan and Designated Port Area Master Plan.
The goal, according to the city’s proposal, is to “distill the clear and detailed action plan that is needed to maintain the presence and function of the shore-side components of the groundfishery and that will facilitate the recovery, revitalization and resiliency of the Gloucester fishing port.”
“It’s really good that Gloucester has responded with such vigor to this,” Tarr said. “It’s clear that the administration clearly understands what the goal of this is.”
He said $70,000 of the funds will be dispersed by the state’s Department of Fish and Game upon execution of the grant agreement.
The city then must submit its final plan for DFG’s review no later than Feb. 20, 2014, with the final $5,000 to be disbursed once the city’s plan is approved by DFG Commissioner Mary B. Griffin and state Division of Marine Fisheries Director Paul Diodati.
Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT