Friday, December 28, 2012

Senate Bill Includes $150 Million to Aid Groundfishing Industry

Washington D.C - U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins today announced that an emergency supplemental bill currently being considered by the U.S. Senate includes $150 million to aid struggling ground fishermen in the Northeast, including Maine, and other areas of the country.

In September, the U.S. Commerce Department declared a disaster in the Northeast groundfishing industry. This declaration opened the door for Congress to appropriate funding to help alleviate the financial hardship caused by dwindling fish stock.

Senators Snowe and Collins wrote to leaders on the Senate Commerce Appropriations Committee earlier this month urging that funding is included in any emergency supplemental appropriations bill developed in response to Superstorm Sandy, which hit the East Coast in late October.

Today, an effort to limit the number of fishing communities that are eligible to receive this funding, which
would have made many Maine communities ineligible, failed in the Senate.

“I have been fighting for Maine’s hardworking fishermen throughout my career in Congress and I was pleased to once again support our great state’s iconic fishing industry today as they confront perilous challenges to both supporting their families and maintaining our working waterfronts,” said Senator Snowe. “Make no mistake, our fishermen have operated within reduced catch limits and it is outside their control that key stocks such as cod, haddock, and yellowtail, have not returned to the levels that were estimated. In the short-term it is imperative that we lower operating costs for our groundfishing fleet in New England in order to retain key infrastructure. Simultaneously, we must investigate the fundamental reasons why New England’s groundfishery has experienced these unprecedented challenges and invest in science in order to more effectively manage our groundfishery for future fishing years and a new generation of fishermen.”

“There are approximately 45 Maine-based vessels actively fishing with federal groundfish permits. Last year, more than 5 million pounds of groundfish, with a dockside value approaching $5.8 million, were landed in Maine,” said Senator Collins. “The requested funding would be used to provide both immediate economic relief to the region’s struggling groundfish industry, and to make targeted investments that will allow the fleet to survive and become more sustainable in the years ahead.”

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