To some, the special election victory by Congressman Ed Markey Tuesday leaves Gloucester and Massachusetts fishermen without a definitive voice in the U.S. Senate.
Just 3 1/2 years removed from the passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — a truly passionate voice for the state’s and the nation’s fishermen — Elizabeth Warren’s victory over forceful fisheries advocate Scott Brown, and now Markey’s triumph and filling of the seat held by new Secretary of State John Kerry have created a Senate delegation in which fisheries may not have the priority they have had in the past. And these changes are coming at a time when fishermen and fishing communities need that type of advocacy the most.
But while Markey has taken stands in the past against adding new flexibility to the Magnuson-Stevens Act — reforms fishermen badly need — and while, yes, he is on record in support of a President Obama “ocean zoning” initiative that would likely shut down even more fishing grounds, he has indeed pushed in support of extending federal disaster aid for the recognized “economic disaster” that is the Northeast groundfishery. And if he — and Warren, for that matter — want to build credibility among the fishing industry leaders, and really among working-class families throughout New England and beyond who identify with fishermen facing a virtual shutdown at the hands of their own government, they will make securing emergency disaster aid one of their top priorities in the weeks and months ahead.
The fact that this still has not been addressed in Congress is, of course, an absolute travesty in the first place.
Congressional leaders frankly made the right call by pulling fisheries aid out of a disaster aid appropriation for the victims of Superstorm Sandy in January; let’s face it, that was a true human and economic disaster that merited a full federal emergency response.