Gloucester Times: Fishing aid gets Senate's final OK
By: Sean Horgan
January 17, 2014
A year ago, the bill to provide $150 million in direct federal disaster assistance to fishermen rolled through the Senate, only to die a lingering death in the House - a casualty of the internecine and partisan bickering over the debt ceiling.
Yesterday, that failure by Congress to lift a deliberative finger to help fishermen was reduced to a political footnote when the Senate passed an appropriation to send $75 million to help fishermen, and fishing communities begin to right their ship after the economic peril visited upon them by the industry's collapse.
The vote by the Senate, which followed Wednesday's overwhelming victory in the House, means the federal government now will provide its first meaningful financial assistance to fishermen since the Department of Commerce declared an economic disaster in the Northeast groundfish fishery and elsewhere in 2012.
"This aid to our fishermen is long overdue," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said yesterday, immediately after casting her vote on the Senate floor. "I couldn't be more pleased."
Warren stressed that the appropriation is just the first step in helping rebuild the industry that has been ravaged by depleted fish stocks, shrinking fleets, climatic changes and NOAA's crisis management strategy of closing traditional fishing grounds and slashing catch quotas.
The key for bringing the industry back, Warren said, is rebuilding it through a credible disaster assistance plan that will offer short-term financial relief while forging a foundation for a more sustainable fishery and fishing industry in the future.
"We will get our fishermen back," Warren said.