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Fishery disaster declared for storm-ravaged areas

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank recently announced a fishery disaster declaration for New Jersey and New York from the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

The declaration applies to affected communities in New Jersey and New York, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Although the full extent of the damage to commercial and recreational fisheries and coastal communities hasn’t been determined, Blank’s action opens the door for Congress to appropriate money to alleviate the financial hardship the disaster caused.

If money is appropriated, NOAA will work closely with Congress, the states and affected communities “to help stem the cascading economic and social impacts of this storm,” NOAA announced.

The declaration came after legislators sent letters to Blank requesting federal support for the industry, which was crippled by the disaster.

The unprecedented storm had a "significant adverse impact on New Jersey's fishing industry," Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., wrote in a letter to the Commerce Department.

A clause in the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act can help trigger much-needed financial support from the Economic Development Administration, Christie wrote.

“RFA will remain active at the federal level to ensure that Congress responds accordingly to this pledge,” Recreational Fishing Alliance director Jim Donofrio wrote in a letter to the industry.

A letter from U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., followed by a group letter by Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., Jon Runyan, R-N.J., and Chris Smith, R-N.J., also requested financial support.

New NOAA Northeast regional administrator John Bullard has already been in contact with the RFA, Donofrio wrote.

“Such fisheries disaster declarations have been made in the past, but it's incumbent upon Congress responding to actually allocate the necessary funds to support the recreational and commercial fishing industry,” Donofrio wrote. “RFA, of course, will be dedicated toward working with Congress to ensure the recreational fishing industry especially is recognized.”

— Reagan Haynes

This story was updated to reflect the fishery disaster declaration.

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