December 5, 2007

U.S. Senate Passes Resolution to Help Aid Rhode Island Fishermen

Reed, Whitehouse Join Coastal New England Senators in Demanding Bush Administration Provide Disaster Relief for Local Fishermen

Washington, D.C. – The Senate late last night unanimously passed a resolution cosponsored by Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), urging the Secretary of Commerce to reconsider a previous decision and declare a commercial fishery failure for groundfish fishermen in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire.  This action will help provide immediate disaster assistance to the region.  Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) sponsored the resolution; Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), and John Sununu (R-N.H.) also cosponsored.
“The fishing industry is vital to Rhode Island’s economy, and I am pleased that the Senate has passed this important resolution.  At a time when it is costing our fishermen more to fuel up their boats and regulations are limiting their catches, we need to provide our fisherman with some measure of relief,” said Senator Jack Reed.  “The Bush Administration should reverse course and provide federal assistance to Rhode Island fishermen.”
“I’ve talked with Rhode Island fishermen working hard to sustain their livelihoods and provide for their families,” said Senator Whitehouse, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.  “In August, Senator Reed and I joined Rhode Island’s congressional delegation to ask Secretary Gutierrez to take action to help our fishermen recover from this severe economic hardship.  I strongly urge him to reconsider his decision to deny them this critical aid.”
The Senate resolution (S. Res. 376), which passed the Senate by unanimous consent, noted that: “Rhode Island has provided information to the Secretary of Commerce indicating that, since 1994, there has been a 66 percent drop in Rhode Island’s groundfish fishery landings and, between 1995 and 2007, groundfish revenue decreased 20 percent from approximately $7,500,000 to $6,000,000.”
It went on to note: “Whereas the Secretary of Commerce rejected requests from Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island to declare a commercial fishery failure prior to establishing any appropriate standard to implement section 312(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act; and

“Whereas for centuries, growth in New England’s commercial fishing industry has been intertwined with the history and economic growth of the New England States and has created thousands of jobs in both fishing and fishing-related industries for generations of New England residents: Now, therefore, be it

“Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that the Secretary of Commerce should–
(1) reconsider the October 22, 2007 decision to deny the requests of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State of Maine, and the State of Rhode Island for a groundfish fishery failure declaration;
(2) look favorably upon the request of the State of New Hampshire for a groundfish fishery failure declaration; and
(3) immediately propose regulations to implement section 312(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1861a(a)).”

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