Thursday, September 13, 2012

Statement on a Northeast Fishery Federal Disaster Declaration

Today I released the following statement regarding an issuance of a disaster declaration for the Northeast fishery by Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank:

Boston- “Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank’s issuance of a formal disaster declaration for the Northeast groundfish industry comes as welcome news, and now as a region we can take the long-overdue steps to advance proposals to provide financial relief to our fishermen and their shoreside partners. We are in the midst of a progressive crisis that is rapidly eroding the fishing industry and our ability to harvest fish through domestic capacity. The crisis that the industry is facing has been increasingly building to the point where it now threatens the industry’s very survival.

The survivors of this fishing crisis have endured a long and painful road of neglect and regulatory mismanagement, and many have been forced out of business by having to sell their boats and permits. If and when money is approved by the members of Congress, the focus must be on preserving the industry from capsizing rather than expediting its end by focusing on consolidation measures and buy-outs.

Also, we must not fail in preserving the infrastructure that is so vital to maintaining a healthy industry, which consists of shoreside businesses of many types. They provide the necessary means to provide such an important protein from trawler to plate, and if we do not protect these heavily invested stakeholders from closure, they, too, will be absent from the industry’s landscape along with thousands of jobs.

Although this aid will be certainly welcome when it arrives, the work needed to repair the damage done to this industry is far from over. Critical changes to fishery management, to the regulatory process and the development of better science are essential to the vitality of this once thriving industry. Without these crucial improvements, Congress and the Obama Administration would only be prolonging the ultimate demise of this vital industry.

I am calling on Congress to begin a substantive and comprehensive conversation with fishing industry stakeholders to expeditiously and overwhelmingly pass emergency federal funds to the industry, and to develop a proposal for where the money will be most effectively applied.”