GOVERNOR PATRICK FINDS $22 MILLION LOSS FOR FISHING COMMUNITIES, SEEKS FEDERAL DISASTER RELIEF
Report details regional economic losses due to new regulatory restrictions, signals need for immediate aid and new approach to conserving fish stocks while preserving the fishing industry
BOSTON - Monday, April 9, 2007 - Governor Deval L. Patrick today submitted to the federal government documentation showing regional economic losses of $22 million due to recent changes in federal commercial fishing regulations and called for federal relief for the Massachusetts groundfishing fleet.
"Everyone agrees that the stocks of groundfish in the waters off the coast of Massachusetts need to be replenished," said Governor Patrick. "Everyone also agrees that the fishing industry needs to remain part of the life of the Commonwealth. The revenue declines experienced by fishing communities represent a true economic disaster."
Governor Patrick sent the report - compiled by the state's Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) -- to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez in support of his earlier request for a federal declaration of economic disaster affecting the Massachusetts commercial groundfishing fleet. Declaration of a "fisheries resource disaster" due to regulatory restriction, under provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act as amended by the Reauthorization Act of 2006, is a necessary first step toward obtaining emergency relief from the federal government that could allow the fishing fleet to survive a period of regulatory restriction on groundfish that is having a disproportionate impact on Massachusetts vessels.
In his letter transmitting the DMF analysis to Secretary Gutierrez, Governor Patrick wrote: "I urge you, upon reviewing this report, to declare a fishery resource disaster in the Massachusetts commercial fishing industry, and to make available the disaster relief that will allow this historic and vital Massachusetts industry to survive a period of severe regulatory restriction. I look forward to working with you toward our shared goals of conserving natural resources and preserving our fishing communities."
In a previous letter sent February 21, Governor Patrick asked Secretary Gutierrez to "take this initial request under advisement" while he worked with experts and local representatives "to document the nature and extent of the economic disaster" facing the groundfishing fleet, related industries, and the communities that depend on them. Today, Governor Patrick released the report prepared by the DMF substantiating his claim of economic harm caused by recent federal regulatory actions.
"Federal relief is in order to help our communities now, but this long-term cycle of crisis, community decline, and crisis is unacceptable," Governor Patrick continued. "I commit the Commonwealth to collaborating with the federal government, the fishing industry, local communities and other stakeholders to create a science-based regulatory solution that conserves fish stocks and protects the communities that depend on fishing as a livelihood for the long run."
The DMF report finds a substantial and disproportionate reduction in revenue suffered by the Massachusetts groundfish fishery attributable to the implementation of emergency interim action in May 2006 and Framework 42 in November 2006. These two federal regulatory changes in the Northeast Multispecies Fisheries Management Plan sharply reduced allowable Days at Sea for the Massachusetts groundfish fishing fleet. As a result, revenues of Massachusetts groundfish vessels fell from $44.6 million in 2005 to $36.5 million in 2006, a decline of 18 percent. Using a multiplier of 2.7 to account for the impact on fisheries-related businesses, the total economic impact of this decline for related industries and communities is a decline of $22 million. This decline in revenues is greater than the corresponding decline that occasioned the declaration of a fishery resource disaster by the Secretary of Commerce in 1994.
A series of regulations imposed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan since 1994 have reduced the area and the number of days Massachusetts vessels are allowed to fish. The fishery management plan's most recent revision, Framework Adjustment 42, which went into effect November 22, 2006, further reduced the fishing days available to the inshore groundfishing fleet by an additional 50 percent.
On November 21, 2006, the Commonwealth filed suit over this new regulation, on the grounds that Framework 42 unduly restricts the Massachusetts fishing fleet, considering that the same fish stock can be harvested in other parts of the region without the same restriction. That lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court.
On February 2, legislators and mayors representing the Bay State's coastal and fishing communities wrote to Governor Patrick asking that he seek a federal declaration of economic emergency for the state's commercial fishing industry. On February 16, the governor met with a delegation of lawmakers and fishing interests convened by Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles to discuss the crisis facing the Massachusetts commercial fishing industry.