With one day to spare before the grant period is set to begin, the state finally released details on its plan to distribute the final portion of federal fishery disaster aid to Massachusetts fishermen with federal permits.
It is not the so-called “Gloucester Plan” that would have spread between $6 million and $7 million to federally permitted fishermen who landed at least 20,000 pounds of groundfish in any of the fishing seasons 2012 to 2014.
Instead, according to Katie Gronendyke, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the state will divide the federal assistance among fishermen with a Massachusetts homeport as of April 30, 2015, who either landed at least 10,000 pounds of groundfish in any fishing season between 2012 and 2014 or had an observer aboard their vessel for at least one groundfish trip in 2014.
The plan, according to Gronendyke, will “better target active fishermen in the groundfishery throughout the Commonwealth.”
The full grant of $6.9 million contained in the third phase, or Bin 3, of federal funding being funneled through the state is the final installment of the roughly $21 million in federal fishery disaster funds designated for Massachusetts from the $75 million appropriated by Congress in January 2014.
The state Division of Marine Fisheries, Gronendyke said, is in the process of identifying qualified recipients by auditing federal catch and trip data.
She did not say how much they will receive in a flat-rate payment. Previous plans placed that figure around $32,000 per permit, but that was with the more restrictive qualifying standards.
The final plan excludes permit banks from receiving the Bin 3 assistance.
Gronendyke said the state will use about $200,000 of the $6.9 million “to partner with industry in developing a viable industry-funded buyback program” with the bulk of the remaining $6.7 being distributed to the fishermen in direct aid.
An unspecified amount, she said, “will be used to help fishermen undertake additional fishing opportunities, such as small-mesh fishing for whiting off Gloucester” as well as administer an industry-based survey in the southwestern portion of the Gulf of Maine “where remnants of the GOM cod stock currently reside.”
The state’s plan is closer to the one advocated by some stakeholders, fishermen and legislators from Cape Cod and the South Shore who strenuously objected to qualifying standards in the initial proposal supported by the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition and the City of Gloucester.
That initial spending proposal called for the disaster assistance to be shared by fishermen who landed at least 20,000 pounds of groundfish in any of the 2012-2014 fishing seasons and did not include either the industry-funded buyback or the industry-based survey.
Opponents criticized the initial plan for being too restrictive and countered with a plan that relaxed the qualifying standards. That plan provides assistance to any Massachusetts-based fisherman who landed at least 10,000 pounds of groundfish in any of the applicable fishing years or had one vessel trip in 2014 with an at-sea monitor aboard.
On Sept. 10, state Fish & Game Commissioner George Peterson called the revised proposal “a more inclusive plan.”
Gronendyke said the state distribution plan does not require additional approvals by NOAA Fisheries so DMF can begin implementing it immediately.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT