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October 25, 2013

State fish aid makes cut in budget bill

The appropriation to fund a state Division of Marine Fisheries plan to halt further collapse of the Bay State commercial fishing industry remains in the supplemental budget bill on its way to Gov. Deval Patrick for his approval.

Following the lead of the state Senate, the Massachusetts House on Thursday retained the $50,000 appropriation and Patrick now has 10 calendar days to act on the budget.

The appropriation, while modest, represents what’s seen as an important step in the long-awaited action by the state to develop a systematic approach for halting the escalating erosion of the state’s commercial fishing industry.

The appropriation includes language that directs the DMF to consider a number of strategies to help right the industry that has been rocked by increased fishery closures, withering federal cuts in catch allotments and ever-shifting climactic conditions.

Those strategies include the possibility of direct grants for commercial fishing vessels, owners and crew; the purchase, leasing and banking of commercial groundfishing permits; catch-quota loans, guarantees and subsidies; and the leasing of dormant vessels for research and other purposes.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who helped spearhead approval of the appropriation in the Senate along with Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D-Gloucester, in the House, likened the measure to a life-support system that would help keep the industry economically alive until a more comprehensive cure can be found.

The appropriation was the second action to help the industry after years of relative inertia by the state.

Earlier, Tarr, R-Goucester, and Senate Majority Whip Mark C. Montigny, D-New Bedford, helped secure an amendment in the regular state budget that provided Gloucester and New Bedford with $75,000 each in port-recovery grants to formulate a plan to sustain those cities’ shore-side infrastructure.

Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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