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August 1, 2013

Editorial: Fishermen's plight shows need for urgent fed response

It’s now been 10 months since the Department of Commerce’s then-Acting Secretary, the very aptly-named Rebecca Blank, finally issued a declaration that Gloucester’s and the entire Northeast groundfishery had fallen into a state of “economic disaster.”

Yet not a single dollar of disaster aid has oozed from the nation’s capital.

It’s been months since officials up to and including Gov. Deval Patrick pressed the White House to issue the needed executive order that could have eased the dire catch limits clamped on the fishing industry by NOAA Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard that have, based on questionable science documentation, driven Gloucester’s and New England’s fishermen to their knees.

And for what it’s worth, it’s even been six weeks since Gloucester’s own Frances Ferrante, mother of state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, got the chance at a Sen. Ed Markey rally to tell President Obama face-to-face, “we need you to help our fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts.”

“You know we will,” the president responded.

Baloney, Mr. President. As noted by the poignant and tragic stories relayed on the front page of Wednesday’s Times by longtime fisherman Joe Orlando and Christine Sherman, our own government has failed to deliver a single dime or raise a vocal chord to help.

The actions of NOAA and Commerce are to blame for fishermen’s putting their permits, boats and —in at least one documented case— houses up for sale in the first place. And while federal lawmakers have renewed their push for federal disaster aid, and essentially research and “transition” money drawn from import tariffs on seafood, it’s important to note that no disaster aid has made it through Congress.

Simply put, our fishermen cannot wait for aid that might hold up through the House and Senate Appropriations budgets for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1. They and their families are getting daily calls from their banks and other creditors now — all because our own government refuses to allow them to earn a living. And all the talk and all the political promises will be worthless if there aren’t steps taken right now.

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