Governor Baker, Federal Delegation Urge President Obama to Fund Protections for Northeast Fishing Industry
Letter to President Outlines Necessary Steps to Reduce On-the-Job Fatalities
BOSTON – In a letter sent to President Barack Obama, Governor Charlie Baker and the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation petition funding for the Fishing Safety Training Grants Program and Fishing Safety Research Grant Program as part of the president’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget. In the letter, Governor Baker and the delegation make the case for $6 million in matching federal funds to support the safety and survival of commercial fisherman, who perform the deadliest job in the country based on the rate of on-the-job fatalities.
“Every day in Massachusetts, our fishermen perform the harrowing tasks at sea that have made their industry a vital part of our heritage as well as our economy,” said Governor Baker. “These modest investments by the federal government would not only equip them with new life-saving technologies, but also make good fiscal sense through the reduction of costly search-and-rescue missions.”
“Fishing families greatly appreciate that Governor Baker and the entire Massachusetts delegation are making the safety of fishermen a priority,” said J.J. Bartlett, President of Fishing Partnership Support Services. “For too long, fishermen have been forced to work without access to the information and training necessary to do their jobs safely. Access to these essential grant funds will save lives and reduce the number of risky and costly search-and-rescue missions.”
In 2015, new rules under the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 (CGGA) took effect and require commercial fishing vessels operating beyond three nautical miles to be outfitted with an updated safety and survival training program. Prior to this change, similar regulations only applied to vessels operating outside of 13 nautical miles. To date, Congress has not funded the two grant programs set aside to help absorb ancillary costs to fishing families associated with this change.
Authorization of $3 million for both the training and research grant programs has been extended through Fiscal Year 2017, but funds have yet to be appropriated. If approved, non-federal grant applicants such as the Fishing Partnerships Support Services are prepared to provide matching funds for New England with the goal of training one hundred percent of Massachusetts fishermen within 10 years.
The letter points to conclusive evidence that these trainings save lives, including the nation’s largest decrease in on-the-job fatalities among Alaskan fisherman between 1986 and 2012. Additionally, the letter states that preventing just one search and rescue operation – often $200,000 per day or more than $1.5 million in multiday searches by the U.S. Coast Guard – would more than pay for the cost of running the training program in New England for an entire year.
View the letter here: Request to the President for Fishing Safety Funds