“Maine fishermen have been hit hard by groundfish closures and drastically reduced quotas,” Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said today, announcing that federal disaster relief funding is finally en route to New England. “If this money is spent wisely, it could go a long way toward the survival of Maine’s fishing communities.”
Earlier today, the Department of Commerce announced $32.8 million of the $75 million allocated for fisheries disaster relief nationwide will go to New England. Six fisheries nationwide will receive funding as determined by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The amount each disaster area receives is based on commercial fishery revenue loss. According to NOAA, disaster funding can be used for activities that “restore the fishery or prevent a similar failure in the future and to assist a fishing community affected by such failure.” In the past, funding has been used for direct payments to fishermen, infrastructure projects, habitat restoration, vessel and permit buybacks and job retraining, as well as other activities
The commerce secretary declared the New England Multispecies Groundfish Fishery (which targets cod, haddock and flounders) an economic disaster in September 2012, but the money was not appropriated to fund it until the omnibus appropriations bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last month. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Pingree has worked hard to secure the funding on behalf of the New England commercial fishing industry.
While many New England lawmakers offered only half-hearted enthusiasm for the announcement, claiming it was too little and “modest in the context of the threat,” Pingree’s comments generally remained positive and forward-looking. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” she admitted, “but I know Maine’s fishermen have some creative ideas that could help keep the industry going.”
How the disaster relief is used will be critical to the fishery’s and commercial fishing industry’s future. Some have even called the disaster relief funding “the last hope for America’s first fishery.“