For Immediate Release - February 27, 2014

Patrick Administration Announces Financial Aid for New England Fishermen Following Federal Disaster Declaration

BOSTON – Thursday, February 27, 2014 – The Patrick Administration today announced that nearly $33 million will be allocated to the New England Multispecies Groundfish Fishery by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) following the federal disaster declaration for the region’s ground-fishermen. The Massachusetts groundfish industry makes up approximately 90 percent of the New England groundfish fishery.

“We are extremely pleased NOAA is allocating this money for our fishermen and fishing communities who have been struggling due to the transition to catch shares and declining groundfish stocks,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “We have worked closely with our congressional partners for years to obtain the disaster declaration and secure the financial assistance our fishermen need to sustain this vital industry. We look forward to continuing that partnership and working with the Obama Administration to develop the best use of this funding, and get this money to the fishing community as quickly as possible.”

The funding is part of $75 million appropriated by Congress for six fishery disasters nationwide declared by the Secretary of Commerce in 2012 and 2013. The U.S. Department of Commerce declared commercial fishery failure for the Northeast groundfish fishing industry in September 2012.

“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. “We must protect the sustainability of our fishermen, and this financial assistance will help guarantee the survival of our fishing industry for years to come.”

In its decision, NOAA waived the state 25 percent match requirement for states receiving disaster relief. It also determined that spending plans can cover a wide range of activities in support of commercial or recreational fisheries, support industries like processors and fish houses, or communities affected by the disaster. Funds will be allocated through the federal grant process.

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 to after being denied in January of that year.

In November 2013, the Small Business Administration approved Governor Patrick’s request for an economic injury disaster declaration, making subsidized loans available to Massachusetts fishermen and fishing-related businesses. Eligible applicants can still qualify for loans up to $2 million. The filing deadline is August 1, 2014.

Massachusetts has held a series of four public meetings to date to engage fishermen and other stakeholders on developing spending plans that will ensure the groundfishing industry continues to be sustainable for future generations.

Congressional Statements of Support

“It is critically important that disaster relief aid finally reach Massachusetts’ neediest fishermen, and I applaud Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and NOAA acting Administrator Kathryn Sullivan for recognizing the dire situation our fishermen are facing and heeding our calls to waive the state 25 percent match requirement,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “I remain disappointed that the overall Senate allotment of $150 million was cut to $75 million in order to reach an agreement with Republican leadership in the House, but this funding will provide much needed relief to our fishing families and I am grateful to Senator Mikulski for her leadership and support to secure this critical relief. I know this aid will not solve all of the problems facing our fishing industry, and I will continue fighting in Washington on behalf of our hardworking fishing families.”

“The fact that the Northeast region received the most money for their fishing disaster shows just how bad it really has been in Massachusetts and across New England for our fishermen and their communities,” said Senator Edward Markey. “The task now is to make sure that Massachusetts fishermen and their families receive as much of the money as possible, as quickly as possible. Waiving the requirement that states match the funding is a crucial decision that will help speed up this process without putting additional burdens on the Commonwealth. I look forward to working with our fishermen, Governor Patrick, the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, and NOAA to ensure Massachusetts’ proud fishing tradition will continue for another four centuries and beyond.”

“Today’s announcement that the New England groundfish fishery will be receiving $32.8 million in federal disaster assistance and that states will not be unduly burdened by a requirement to provide matching funds is the critical next step in this process. In the days and weeks ahead, I will be working with state officials and industry stakeholders to ensure that Massachusetts receives its appropriate share and this long-overdue assistance is delivered to fishermen and their families as quickly as possible,” said Congressman John Tierney.

“I am very pleased that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that they will award $32.847 million in funding for fisheries disaster relief to the New England region, and that the Department of Commerce will waive the requirement that states match 25 percent of any funding awarded to them,” said Congressman Stephen Lynch. “The Northeast Multispecies Groundfish Fishery was declared a federal fisheries disaster area in September of 2012, and has long been in need of economic relief. The economic well-being of the fishing industry is vital to the coastal communities in my district, the Commonwealth and the entire New England region. This is a critical step towards ensuring that the fishing industry is provided the relief and support that it needs and continues to remain a viable industry for Massachusetts and New England.”

“Massachusetts’ fishing families are a cornerstone of our state’s economic and cultural foundation, with a grit and determination reflective of the New England spirit,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “This much needed assistance will support these hard-working men and women and their local economies that were hit hard in the wake of a federally declared economic disaster.”

“Today’s announcement marks a critical step toward providing Massachusetts’ fishing communities with long-awaited disaster assistance needed to alleviate the hardships our fishermen have been facing,” said Congressman William Keating. “This funding will also provide an opportunity for investment in the continued vitality of this historic industry. At the behest of the entire Northeast congressional delegation, NOAA has also announced the decision to waive the matching requirement for states. I am hopeful that this will allow for focus on the urgent issue at hand: finding effective uses for this overdue financial assistance.”

“Along the coast of our Commonwealth, fisheries have been and will continue to be a critical industry in the state’s economy,” said Congressman Joseph Kennedy III. “As our fisheries rebuild and recover, these funds will help strengthen and sustain fisherman and their families, their businesses, and the fishing communities that rely on the industry as a major source of income and vitality.”

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