August 19, 2015

Baker-Polito Administration, Federal Congressional Delegation Seek Financial Relief for State Fishing Industry

Letter to Federal Agencies Requests Financial Assistance for At-Sea-Monitoring Program

BOSTON- Joined by the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, the Baker-Polito Administration today sent a letter to the Secretary of Commerce and other federal partners urging their support in covering the costs of At-Sea-Monitoring (ASM) for the entire Northeast fishery. Additionally, the correspondence requests that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) expedite electronic monitoring and other cost-saving alternatives to At-Sea-Monitoring.

"We write with serious concerns over recent actions taken by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries Service," said the letter to the United States Secretary of Commerce and members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. "While we too respect the importance of proper fisheries management, we question the fiscal and programmatic decisions that the agency has made of late with regards to the Northeast Fishery."

The letter, which comes on the heels of a request by the New England Fisheries Management Council to suspend ASM and further evaluate the program's effectiveness, seeks to relieve the Commonwealth's vibrant and economically significant fishing industry from financial and regulatory measures imposed by NOAA and other federal agencies.

The delegation expresses their strong opposition the use of Bin 3 federal disaster, appropriated to Massachusetts' commercial fisherman after the 2012 federally-declared fishery failure in the Northeast Groundfish fishery, to subsidize the At-Sea-Monitoring Program. The communication to federal partners goes on to note that the intent of the funding was to be used for the future viability of the Commonwealth's fishing industry.

"Using this money to make up for NOAA's reinterpretation of how to prioritize funding is far afield from the intent for which this money was appropriated, and would only help NOAA's inability to fund their own budget gap, which hardly relates to the viability of the fishermen of Massachusetts," writes the delegation. "It would create a short lived future for many of these fishermen who will be forced into inactivity or worse."

The request from the Baker-Polito Administration and the state's congressional delegation both encourages NOAA Fisheries to prove the cost-effectiveness of the burdensome At-Sea-Monitoring Program and support federal funds to pay for the monitoring. In a further attempt to assist the Commonwealth's fishing industry, the letter also encourages federal fishing partners to use Massachusetts' commercial fishing industry as a resource to effectively gather the best available data and develop monitoring practices going forward.

Click here to read the letter signed by Governor Baker and the congressional delegation.