Groundfish fishery. (Photo: seagrant.oregonstate.edu)
New England may introduce disaster relief programme
Friday, August 31, 2012, 04:00 (GMT + 9)
Members of the New England congressional delegation are currently considering a draft letter outlining a proposed disaster relief programme for the Northeast groundfishery. The scheme features a USD 100 million permit and boat buyback programme plus USD 87.5 million in various subsidies for fishers who stay in business.
Per the programme, the government would front the buyback money and it would be re-paid from charges on the revenue generated by sector survivors. The government would also invest USD 10 million to pay for the default rate in the programme.
The letter is being circulated for ideas and signatures in time to inform the House and Senate of a desire to attach the groundfish disaster relief programme onto a bill that may make it to President Barack Obama’s desk before the end of the 112th Congress, Gloucester Times reports.
“Our fishermen work hard every day under challenging conditions,” said Congressman Frank Guinta of New Hampshire. “The least Washington can do is extend the courtesy of replying to the request for disaster assistance.”
|Congressman Frank Guinta of New Hampshire. (Photo: guinta.house.gov)
In combination with the USD 100 million buyout, the draft letter proposed USD 30 million in direct aid to fishers, USD 30 million to assist communities and shore side businesses, USD 15 million to fund at-sea monitoring for two years, USD 7.5 million for cooperative and traditional scientific research, USD 2.5 million for retraining ex-fishers and another USD 5 million to support the 17 fishing cooperatives operating in New England.
Governor Deval Patrick called the studies a break-even analysis. Also, a case study of a group of boats based in small ports along Massachusetts Bay determined that the disaster was set off by the 2010 conversion of the groundfishery into catch shares among fishing cooperatives whose members are encouraged to buy, sell and trade shares, and thus fishing quota.
At the same time, the system was proven to have consolidated control of the fishery into fewer and larger hands, while driving smaller and independent boats nearly out of business.
In 2011 and again this year, two Democratic Congressmen and various colleagues joined with House Republicans in approving amendments to spending bills to stop the expansion of catch shares.
The plan would accelerate the consolidation of the fishery by providing buyout capital and subsidizing the survivors.
New York and Rhode Island have now joined Maine and two other New England states in urging the federal government to issue a disaster declaration for the Northeast groundfishery.
Maine’s congressional delegation said a declaration is being prepared, Bangor Daily News reports.
Further, the US Government has received a request for a federal groundfish fishery disaster declaration for New York's fishing communities, after a recent preliminary report projected significant cuts--up to 70 per cent-- in catch limits for New England groundfish stocks in 2013. These cuts to multispecies fishery, such as cod and yellowtail flounder, would harm Long Island's businesses and fishers who are already struggling.
By Natalia Real