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October 11, 2011

Kerry seeks to steer fishing aid from NOAA coffers

U.S, Sen. John Kerry has announced plans to reform the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act to ensure the original intent of a law written by Massachusetts political legends in 1954 — to provide a steady revenue stream for research and development and marketing of domestic harvests from fish import tariffs.

The industry has failed to get about $500 million in Saltonstall-Kennedy funds over the past decade, and got nothing in 2011, federal figures show. The Act is names for Sens. Leverett Saltonstall, a Republican and former governor, and John F. Kennedy, who served in the Senate prior to his election as president in 1960,

Noting that fishermen feel a "deep sense of disappointment and mistrust ..." in federal fisheries enforcement, science and research funding decisions, Kerry said he intends to draft and file legislation that would establish grants programs within the regional fishery management councils, and make money available for the grants from both the Saltonstall-Kennedy transfers and NOAA enforcement's Asset Forfeiture Fund.

"My legislation would make sure that these federal funds go where they were intended," Kerry said in remarks prepared for the start of the Oct. 3 hearing that featured testimony from NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. She was questioned by Kerry, Sen. Scott Brown and by congressmen John Tierney, Barney Frank and William Keating.

Kerry spokeswoman Whitney Smith said details on the bill were not yet available Tuesday.

The Times reported last March that Congress has been flouting the intent of Saltonstall-Kennedy.

Although the law requires that 30 percent of fish tariffs be given by the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Commerce — and that Commerce use at last 60 percent for "fishery industry projects" — Congress has chosen to do otherwise.

In 2011, Commerce received $90.2 million in Saltonstall-Kennedy funds, but while the law requires that 60 percent — or just over $54 million — be distributed in research and development or marketing projects to the industry, not a penny went to that purpose. Instead, the entire $90.2 million was shifted by Congress into NOAA operations, said agency spokeswoman Connie Barclay.

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