For Immediate Release - July 16, 2010

GOVERNOR PATRICK URGES FEDERAL OFFICIALS TO EASE NEW COMMERCIAL FISHING RULES, PROVIDE RELIEF FOR MASSACHUSETTS FISHING INDUSTRY

BOSTON - Friday, July 16, 2010 - Following recent meetings with the Massachusetts fishing industry up and down the coast, including a meeting this week with 40 Gloucester fishing industry representatives, Governor Deval Patrick today sent the attached letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke urging the department to raise catch limits and provide direct economic relief to fishermen. The Governor's advocacy is in keeping with his ongoing work with members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and state and local officials to support this critical economic engine for the Commonwealth.

"Massachusetts fishermen are fighting for their survival," said Governor Patrick in the letter. "The transition to catch shares, a difficult transition in the best of circumstances, has been made more economically devastating by NOAA's insistence on unnecessarily steep cuts in annual fishing limits."

In his letter, Governor Patrick thanked NOAA for its emergency action this week to raise the catch limits on pollock but urged further action and an increase on the limits on other species including yellow tail flounder, winter flounder, Georges Bank cod and haddock.

Governor Patrick also requested full funding of a $3.2 million cooperative research project on stock assessment and gear technology, which he first proposed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in June 2009 to improve the science behind fisheries regulation. In addition, Governor Patrick requested $500,000 to $700,000 for administrative costs to assist with monitoring improvements.

On May 1, 2010, new commercial fishing catch limits - set by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service - went into effect. In a major shift for local fishermen, these limits significantly cut the volume of fish commercial fishermen can catch and set hard catch quotas on many species of groundfish that, once reached, could result in widespread and unprecedented fisheries closures. Groundfish comprise the cornerstone of the businesses of many Massachusetts fishermen, and the industry may face premature closures if quotas are reached for the most depleted species such as pollock and some skate species.

Governor Patrick has partnered with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, state legislators, city officials from Gloucester and New Bedford and industry representatives to address the challenges facing the industry.

  • Working with the delegation, Governor Patrick secured $13.4 million of federal groundfish disaster funding for emergency economic relief and $2 million in federal disaster relief for Massachusetts shellfishermen for Red Tide impacts.
  • With Senator Bruce Tarr, Governor Patrick secured $500,000 through state legislation to help the fishing industry prepare for sector allocation.
  • Working with Chairman John Pappalardo, Governor Patrick prevailed upon the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) to reconsider proposed catch limits on scallops, resulting in $40 million in direct benefits to the New Bedford scallop industry.
  • In addition, the Governor intends to file an amicus brief detailing his view that the federal catch limits are unduly severe and the preparation for catch shares inadequate as part of a lawsuit filed by New Bedford and Gloucester fishing interests.

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