On May 28, 2014 the state fishery directors from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, in partnership with NOAA, announced a framework for the distribution of $32.8 in federal disaster aid monies to the New England groundfish industry (joint press release). In the consensus framework, the six states will apportion available monies between three themes (roughly $11 million in each): one-third to be used for direct assistance, one-third to be split among the states and used at their discretion, and one-third to be used in developing a federally funded buyout or industry-funded buyback.
Federal disaster aid stems from a September 13, 2012 disaster declaration in the Northeast multispecies (groundfish) fishery by the Acting Secretary of Commerce. The disaster designation was requested by Governor Deval Patrick and other elected officials recognizing the severe hardships being faced by commercial fishermen – hardships being felt well before the official May 1, 2013 federal designation (see related reports on break-even analysis and economic impacts).
Although based on severe catch limit reductions that were implemented due to declining stock status, the Secretary of Commerce noted fishermen had adhered to catch limits. NOAA Fisheries’ own data and research have indicated that an environmental regime shift has occurred and is on-going, suggesting additional factors leading to stock declines.
Since the declaration, fisheries managers, scientists and fishermen all continue to struggle to understand the causes of the crises facing groundfish populations, fishing families and our port communities. It’s becoming increasingly clear that multiple factors including, the environment, changing resource conditions, low catch limits, permit/quota market inefficiencies, lack of alternative fishing opportunities, and fleet capacity all contribute to the current state of the New England groundfish industry. The Commonwealth, therefore, has turned to a wide-range of themes in crafting ways to stabilize Massachusetts groundfish businesses thereby safeguarding the state’s communities and local economies built upon this historic fishery.
Excluding the $11-million set-aside for regional consideration of a future vessel buyout/buyback, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will receive $14.5-million: $6.3-million in direct subsidies to pre-identified active commercial groundfishermen and $8.2-million for consideration of additional assistance strategies in a state program. The latter was developed by DMF through a public and transparent process that has aimed to be as timely and sensible as practicable. An Industry-based Working Group met twice in the summer of 2014 to assist in developing proposed spending strategies. DMF vetted these strategies through a series of public meetings held in coastal towns throughout Massachusetts during July 2014. To assist the public in providing comments, the Division of Marine Fisheries prepared a public information document with assistance from an Industry-based Steering Committee.
Public Meeting Schedule:
Monday, July 14, 2014 - 6:00 PM
MA DMF Annisquam River Station
30 Emerson Ave.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014 – 6:00 PM
Radisson - Plymouth Harbor
180 Water St.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 – 6:00 PM
Waypoint Event Center
Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites
185 MacArthur Dr.
Thursday, July 17, 2014 – 6:00 PM
Chatham High School
425 Crowell Rd.
Groundfish Disaster Aid Public Information Document - Please submit comments by Monday, August 4th, to Melanie Griffin (email@example.com)
DMF presented a revised spending plan to the Working Group in September 2014. After revising some aspects of the proposal, the Working Group strongly endorsed by consensus the state’s proposed spending plan, recognizing some details would require further development by DMF.
Phase 2 Disaster Aid Working Group Meeting - September 5, 2014
In Phase 1 of the Disaster Aid Program, the Commonwealth received $6.3-million to distribute as direct subsidies to limited access multispecies permit holders pre-qualified by NMFS based on their landing history of at least 5,000-lbs. of groundfish in any one of the past four fishing years (FY2010-FY2013). On August 4, 2014 NMFS mailed letters to federal limited access multispecies permit holders notifying them whether or not they were found eligible by NMFS for direct assistance in Phase 1. Those interested in reviewing their permit data may submit a landings history request to NMFS. On August 6, 2014 permit holders pre-qualified by NMFS were sent a letter and vendor forms by the Commonwealth to enable payment processing.
As part of the greater $32.8-million federal groundfish disaster aid package, NMFS has allocated $8.3-million to the Commonwealth based on a pre-determined homeport formula.
On October 24, 2014 DMF submitted a final grant application to NMFS for approval of Phase 2 funding. DMF will utilize this state specific program to mitigate impacts to additional components of the Massachusetts groundfish fishery not previously addressed by Phase 1 aid to qualified federal permit holders.
The following is a list of proposed groundfish permit categories that would qualify for a flat rate of financial disaster assistance:
- federal limited access multispecies permit holders who landed at least 5,000-lbs. of groundfish in FY2009;
- federal limited access multispecies permit holders who landed at least 3,000-lbs. of groundfish in any one year from FY2010-FY2013 (a reduced flat rate compared to the limited access permit holders who landed 5,000-lbs.);
- Massachusetts State Waters Groundfish Endorsement (GE) permit holders who landed at least 5,000-lbs. of groundfish in any one year from FY2009-FY2013;
- For-hire groundfish permit holders who had at least 50 trips in the Gulf of Maine with at least one (1) cod, pollock or haddock per trip in any one year from FY2010-FY2013; and
- For-hire groundfish permit holders who had at least 30 trips but less than 50 in the Gulf of Maine with at least one (1) cod, pollock or haddock per trip in any one year from FY2010-FY2013 (a reduced flat rate compared to for-hire permit holders with at least 50 trips).
Additionally, DMF has proposed flat rate payments to crew members, including owner/operators and lumpers, who can verify (1) they worked for a for-hire or commercial groundfish vessel qualified for disaster aid, (2) 50% of their total income is from for-hire or commercial fishing; and (3) that they earned a minimum of $5,000 in annual revenue from for-hire or commercial fishing in any one year during the associated permitted vessel’s eligibility period.
Remaining funds may be utilized to subsidize sector administration costs for MA-based sectors as well as to provide grants to groundfishing ports to assist shoreside businesses impacted by the groundfish disaster.
The above strategies are pending NMFS grant approval.
Patrick Administration Releases First Round of Groundfish Disaster Assistance
Governor Patrick Urges Federal Officials to Ease New Commercial Fishing Rules, Provide Relief for Massachusetts Fishing Industry
DMF News Articles
In Search of Groundfish Fishery Economic Relief
Supporting Studies & Communication
A Report on Economic and Scientific Conditions in the Massachusetts Multispecies Groundfishery
Related Assistance Programs
MA Commercial Fisheries Revolving Loan Fund (RLF)
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Groundfish Industry Transition Assistance Plan