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September 14, 2013

Feds open to bids for fishing aid grants

Commercial fishermen interested in potential financial assistance from a trio of federal grant programs should keep two upcoming dates in mind.

On Sept. 29, the application period will close for fiscal 2013 Saltonstall-Kennedy grants, a national competitive program launched earlier this summer by the Department of Commerce to provide grants for fisheries research and other development project related to U.S. fisheries.

The individual grants can run anywhere from $30,000 to $400,000. Funding for the Saltonstall-Kennedy grant program has not been set, though Daniel Namur, NOAA’s program manager for the S-K grants reiterated estimates Friday that peg the overall figure at between $5 million and $10 million.

Once the application process closes, NOAA will begin a technical review phase of each grant application to determine which will merit funding. That should be completed by some time in late December, according to Susan Olsen of NOAA’s operation and budget division.

“We’ve received a lot of inquiries locally about the program, asking us about priorities, eligibility requirements and packaging,” Olsen said. “But historically, the applications (for any grant programs) all come in at the last moment. Until that happens, we don’t know who will actually put a pen to paper.”

The allocation of Saltonstall-Kennedy Act money — tied to a 1954 act pushed at the time by then U.S. Sens. Leverett Saltonstall and John F. Kennedy, the future president — comes after years of what fishermen and their legislative backers has been the wrongful use of Saltonstall-Kennedy funds for NOAA’s operating budget. Under the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act, the federal government was to steer up to 30 percent of seafood import tariff money into the fishing industry for marketing and promotion of domestic fishing, and for other uses.

The other date commercial fishermen should note is Oct. 1, when NOAA will host a presentation by the U.S. Small Business Administration and Department of Agriculture on programs within those two federal departments that might provide financial support to members of the fishing industry.

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