December 14, 2012

Reed, Whitehouse Urge Emergency Federal Funding for Fisheries Disasters

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help Rhode Island fishermen, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse today announced that $150 million is included in the Senate Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill for several fisheries disasters declared in the past year. The Northeast commercial groundfish fishery was declared a disaster due to the depletion and unexpectedly slow rebuilding of fish stocks. The emergency funding included in the Appropriations bill can be used to provide a variety of assistance to help fishermen cope with the effects of the disaster and to assist in the recovery of the resource.

“I am pleased we were able to include this vital funding in the Appropriations bill to help fishing communities deal with the impacts of this disaster. Rhode Island’s fishing industry is important to our economy and I will continue working to help our state’s fishermen through these difficult times,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee.

“Rhode Island’s fishing industry has been hit hard in recent years by depleted fish stocks, tighter regulations, and a tough economy,” said Whitehouse. “This funding could provide badly needed assistance to our fishermen, and I will work hard with Senator Reed to make sure it gets approved in the Senate.”

On December 11, Senators Reed and Whitehouse and twelve of their Senate colleagues sent a bipartisan letter to the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS), requesting the federal funds. The Senators wrote: “Over the past year, extreme weather and other natural events have wreaked havoc on commercial and recreational fishermen in our states, leading the Secretary of Commerce to declare federal fisheries disasters. Despite these declarations and the ongoing hardship, Congress has not yet appropriated funds. Fishing is an integral part of our states’ economies and cultures. These disasters have devastated fishing families and coastal communities and there is an urgent need to provide federal assistance.”

In addition to Reed and Whitehouse, the bipartisan letter was authored by: Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan M. Collins (R-ME), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Scott Brown (R-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

In August, Senators Reed and Whitehouse called on the U.S. Department of Commerce to declare a federal fishery failure for the Northeast multispecies fishery for the 2013 season. The declaration, which opened the door for emergency federal funding for the region’s fishing industry, was announced in September.

A 2011 study funded by a federal NOAA Fisheries grant to the Rhode Island-based 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 Senate is expected to begin consideration of the Senate Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill as early as next week.

-end-

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