Congress works to secure funds for commercial fisherman
In an effort to help Rhode Island fishermen, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed helped lead a bipartisan effort to include $150 million in federal funding for fisheries disasters that were declared in 2012. The subcommittee approved the bill Tuesday.
“This is a positive step forward that could help provide real relief to our fishermen,” said Reed. “Fishing communities in Rhode Island and throughout the Northeast were affected directly and indirectly by the groundfish disaster.”
In September 2012, a federal fisheries disaster was declared for multiple groundfish species in the Northeast Atlantic as a result of severely low stocks of key groundfish species, such as cod and flounder. Six Northeast states have been significantly impacted by this disaster declaration, including Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York.
According to a U.S. Senate committee report, U.S. commercial fishermen landed more than 10 billion pounds of seafood valued at more than $5 billion. However, some of these fisheries experienced significant hardships in 2012, which led the U.S. secretary of commerce to declare several federal fishery disasters.
According to Reed, the declarations are hollow proclamations, coming with no real financial relief. He said the funding is not just about fixing damaged boats and repairing waterfronts, but about rebuilding smarter fisheries so that businesses and coastal communities stand a better shot of avoiding future disasters.
Now that it has been approved by the commerce, justice and science subcommittee, the bill must be approved by the full committee and then the full Senate. The full appropriations committee may take up the bill as early as Thursday.