For Immediate Release - September 13, 2012

Patrick-Murray Administration Secures Federal Disaster Declaration for Massachusetts Fishermen

BOSTON – Thursday, September 13, 2012 – The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced that United States Department of Commerce Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank has granted the Commonwealth's longstanding request for a federal disaster declaration for Massachusetts ground fishermen.

“For years I have engaged federal officials on the importance of providing a disaster declaration for our fishermen and fishing communities, who have been struggling due to the transition to catch shares and declining groundfish stocks.  I am extremely pleased that today, the Department of Commerce has taken an important first step to validate my request for a disaster declaration,” said Governor Deval Patrick.  “This declaration is more critical than ever as coastal communities brace for possible additional cuts to the region’s groundfishery next year.  I want to give special thanks to the leadership of President Obama, and I stand ready to work with my fellow Northeast governors and Congressional leaders to ensure our fishermen receive the financial assistance they desperately need to sustain this vital industry.”

Anticipating the federal disaster declaration, Governor Patrick, partnering with other coastal New England governors, submitted a letter this week to Senate and House leadership, asking for their support in securing $100 million in disaster funding for New England’s fishermen.

“Governor Patrick has vigorously advocated for the Massachusetts fishing industry, an important piece of the Commonwealth’s economic vitality and heritage,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan. “Today’s announcement is a significant step forward for fishermen trying to survive the transition to catch shares and lower catch levels, and we look forward to working with Senator John Kerry and the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to secure federal assistance for fishermen.”

Governor Patrick first made a request to the Department of Commerce in November 2010, asking for direct economic relief to the Massachusetts groundfish fleet for the impact caused by the transition to the catch shares system. In November 2011, Governor Patrick renewed his request for federal aid after being denied in January of that year.

To support this new request, federal officials were provided a comprehensive report, Comparative Economic Survey and Analysis of Northeast Fishery Sector 10, from the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) that detailed losses in specific fishery sectors along the Commonwealth’s coastline. The in-depth analysis of Sector 10, comprised mostly of small boats fishing from the South Shore, documented a significant 61 percent decline in groundfish landings between 2009 and 2010 under catch shares.

This decline in landings has resulted in a 52 percent drop in groundfish revenue by 27 small business owners. Furthermore, the Sector 10 Analysis shows 30 percent of permit holders have lost at least 80 percent of their groundfish revenue.

A second report, the Break-Even Analysis of the New England Groundfish Fishery for FY2009 and FY2010, was also provided to federal officials, confirming that the Massachusetts groundfish fleet has experienced a significant 24 percent decline between 2009 and 2010.

The analysis was the result of a collaborative effort between DMF, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s School of Marine Science and Technology to further define economic impacts previously documented in the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute (MFI) Report to the Department of Commerce.

“We are very pleased that the Obama Administration is issuing this disaster declaration,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin. “This is the right decision in support of our fishermen and coastal communities.”

“We appreciate that President Obama and his Administration utilized the important analysis and reports conducted by the Division of Marine Fisheries and the Marine Fisheries Institute to inform their disaster determination,” said DMF Director Paul Diodati.

Once disaster assistance is appropriated, the Commonwealth will conduct a thorough public process to engage fishermen and other stakeholders on developing spending plans that will ensure the ground fishing industry continues to be sustainable for future generations.