July 18, 2013

Warren Helps Secure $150 Million for National Fisheries Disasters in FY14 Subcommittee Bill

Funding for Aid, Assistance Measures go to Hardworking Massachusetts Fishermen

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate Appropriations Committee today announced it has included $150 million for fisheries disasters in its FY14 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) markup. Senator Elizabeth Warren applauded Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) and the CJS Subcommittee’s efforts to provide aid to fishermen in Massachusetts and across the country.

“I’m deeply grateful to Chairwoman Mikulski and the Appropriations Committee for approving critical disaster aid and assistance programs to help hardworking fishing families in Massachusetts,” said Senator Warren. “The fishing industry has long been an essential part of the Commonwealth’s economy and our proud traditions, and it is vitally important we support our fishermen in these difficult times.”

In September 2012, the Secretary of Commerce issued disaster declarations for several fisheries, including the Northeast Groundfish fishery, which faces significant reductions in catch allocation for key fish stocks such as cod for the next several years.

In March, the Senate passed a bipartisan budget amendment introduced by Senators Warren and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) allowing appropriations to be allocated to provide disaster assistance to fishermen. Senators Warren also sent a letter in April to President Obama urging immediate action to provide relief for the industry.

Additional Background on the FY14 Subcommittee Bill:

The bill approved today directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to use its revenue stream from seafood import duties on fisheries research, as required by the 1954 Saltonstall-Kennedy Act, which Senator Warren has strongly supported. Ten percent of the revenues generated by the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act will be used for competitive grants towards community based plans to help coastal fishing communities and industry retool and modernize their fleets, shore services, and port facilities to improve innovation and sustainability. The Saltonstall-Kennedy Act funds also cannot be used for internal NOAA management. 

The funds approved today are directed to be used for cooperative research, annual stock assessments, and efforts to improve data collection including catch monitoring. Southern New England Lobstermen have been facing difficult challenges and the committee will require NOAA to engage the industry to improve coordination in states in conducting surveys and research.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is required to provide adequate funding for at-sea and dockside monitoring for sector management plans that impose observer coverage as a condition for new and expanded fishing opportunities in the Northeast Multispecies fishery. In addition, the Committee directs NOAA to dramatically expand the agency’s activities in chartering commercial fishing vessels to serve as research and survey vessels for fish stock assessments. Increasing these charter opportunities will improve the quantity and quality of fishery data that is used for stock assessments.