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July 20, 2013

Fed panel backs $150M in fishing aid

U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee also OKs research mandates for NOAA

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has included $150 million for fisheries disasters in its fiscal 2014 budget proposal for the Department of Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies.

And the budget measure includes a number of other directives aimed at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including a proposed requirement that NOAA charter private and commercial fishing boats to carry out cooperative research with an eye toward addressing a long standing gulf between NOAA and the industry regarding credible fisheries science.

The budget measure was cleared by the Appropriations panel headed by Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, and the Commerce/Justice/Science Subcommittee, according to the fishing industry online news site SavingSeafood.com and is aimed at providing disaster aid for Massachusetts fishermen as well as those in other New England states, New York and New Jersey, and Alaska and Mississippi.

All of those areas’ fisheries were recognized last September as being in states of “economic disaster” as designated by then-Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank.

In addition to the disaster aid — which still must survive several steps in the federal budgeting process to become reality — the subcommittee’s bill essentially orders NOAA to steer a portion of its revenue from seafood import duties toward the expanded fisheries research, as required by the 1954 Saltonstall-Kennedy Act.

Under that measure, 10 percent of the revenues generated by the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act will be used for competitive grants towards community-based plans to help coastal fishing communities and industry retool and modernize their fleets, shore services, and port facilities to improve innovation and sustainability. The Saltonstall-Kennedy Act funds also cannot be used for internal NOAA management, as has been the case now for several years in the past.

First-year Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has been pushing for both types of action, hailed the Appropriations actions.

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