GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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August 31, 2013

Fishermen thank senators for proposed $150M in aid

GLOUCESTER — Fishermen from the Northeast are thanking two key U.S. Senators for including $150 million in fishery disaster assistance in a recent appropriations bill.

The letter from 230 fishermen, all members of the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, was dated earlier this week. It was addressed to appropriations committee chair Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski and the committee’s top Republican, Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Also, coalition executive director Jackie Odell wrote to senators representing the Northeast region thanking them for their efforts to help secure a future for the fishery.

The coalition’s letter thanked the lawmakers for their “extraordinary work” to include the aid — needed after massive cuts in catch limits this year — in the fiscal 2014 budget proposal for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science and other agencies.

Both Odell’s and the coalition’s letters said prosperity has vanished from fishing communities, and the aid is critical to preserve the industry until fish health improves.

The letters also stress that the current fishery disaster is a consequence of natural forces far beyond the control of man.

“We are told that just like nature can wreak havoc on man’s world through sudden events like hurricanes, tsunamis and droughts — it can also have devastating effects on the productivity of our marine ecosystems… We know they will recover —and with time and better science, so will we, provided something can be done in the meantime to preserve our world for that better day,” the coalition letter reads.

Odell wrote that the recovery of the Northeast groundfish fishery will not be simple: it will require substantial improvements and adjustments to science and management; moreover, a recovery will take time. Fishery disaster assistance, she wrote, is absolutely essential if there is to be a future for the Northeast groundfish fishery.

The House must approve the allocation, 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.

Last year, the House stripped an identical funding amount from a different bill.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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