By Staff and News Services
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — 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.
The bill 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 thee federal budgeting process to become reality — the Senate Appropriations panel’s Commerce/Justice/Science subcommittee also advanced another bill that essentially orders NOAA to also steer its revenue stream from seafood import duties on 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.
“I’m deeply grateful to Chairwoman Mikulski and the Appropriations Committee for approving critical disaster aid and assistance programs to help hard-working fishing families in Massachusetts,” Warren said. “The fishing industry has long been an essential part of the commonwealth’s economy and our proud traditions, and it is vitally important we support our fishermen in these difficult times.”
The funds from the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act — money also sought for fisheries under a separate bill filed by Congressman John Tierney in the U.S. House — are directed to be used for cooperative research, annual stock assessments, and efforts to improve data collection including catch monitoring.
Southern New England lobstermen have also been facing difficult challenges and the committee will require NOAA to engage the industry to improve coordination in states in conducting surveys and research.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is required to provide adequate funding for at-sea and dockside monitoring for sector management plans that impose observer coverage as a condition for new and expanded fishing opportunities in the Northeast multispecies groundfishery, which includes the fleet out of Gloucester.
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