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Delegation Supports State’s Request for Fisheries Relief

Providence, RI – Following a warning by federal regulators that fishermen in Rhode Island and throughout New England will likely soon face severe reductions in yearly catch limits, Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation today joined Governor Chafee in asking the federal government to approve a disaster declaration for the New England groundfishery.  If approved, the declaration could make Rhode Island fishermen eligible for additional loan programs and authorizes Congress to provide additional funds for assistance programs if they become available.

The fishing industry throughout New England has struggled in recent years as catch limits have been tightened to allow depleted fish populations to replenish themselves.  While Rhode Island fishermen have done their best to adapt to these changes, challenges remain and a disaster declaration ensures that all available management tools are being considered at the federal level. 

“Declaring a disaster is recognition of the severe hardship facing the New England fishing industry and we encourage the Commerce Department to call on all available resources and programs that could benefit these fisheries-dependent coastal communities,” wrote U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline. 

A 2011 Cornell University study funded by the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation, estimated that commercial fishing and related industries account for over 6,500 jobs in Rhode Island.  Across New England the industry remains an important part of the coastal economy and culture.

The full text of the delegation’s letter is below.  Governor Chafee initiated the disaster request yesterday.  The governors of other New England states have made similar requests.

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     August 24, 2012

The Honorable Rebecca Blank

Acting Secretary

Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue NW

Washington, D.C.  20230

Dear Acting Secretary Blank:

We are writing in support of Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee’s request that a disaster be declared for the New England groundfishery.  Several stocks in this fishery, including Georges Bank cod and yellow tail flounder, face such significant catch limit reductions in Fishing Year 2013 that Rhode Island groundfish permit holders will undoubtedly face economic stress.  We specifically want to underscore the Governor's point that in addition to the direct impact on groundfish catch limits, there will likely be indirect impacts on other fisheries that these same permit holders, and many other Rhode Island fishermen, also rely on.

Declaring a disaster is recognition of the severe hardship facing the New England fishing industry and we encourage the Commerce Department to call on all available resources and programs that could benefit these fisheries-dependent coastal communities.  This includes working with the Small Business Administration on available operating and disaster loans, workforce education programs, and supporting the National Marine Fisheries Service on other assistance measures.

Commercial fishing in Rhode Island is a vital part of our economy and culture.  We hope to work with you to invest in our fisheries and the communities and people they support.

Thank you for your prompt attention and consideration of this important request.

                                                                 Sincerely,

Jack Reed, United States Senator                                                         

Sheldon Whitehouse, United States Senator

James Langevin, Member of Congress

David Cicilline, Member of Congress

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