Massachusetts reps seek aid for state’s fishermen

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Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation are calling for federal disaster relief for Bay State fishermen.

“We need a disaster declaration from the administration,” U.S. Sen. John Kerry told reporters gathered outside his Boston office Aug. 3, according to the State House News Service.

He said that just as droughts in the Midwest are withering cornfields, “off our coastline, Mother Nature is taking away the fish,” according to the news service.

The report — a preliminary fish stock assessment — showed that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s plan to rebuild cod, haddock and flounder and other groundfish fisheries could drop next year’s fish harvests by about 70 percent.

The one-page document shows the biggest drop in Gulf of Maine haddock harvests, which would fall by 73 percent from 2012 to 2013. Compared with 2011 levels, Georges Bank yellowtail flounder is set for a 93 percent drop-off in 2013.

In 2010, fishermen in New Bedford brought in $306 million worth of catch, the greatest value in 30 years, which placed it as the top port in the nation in the value of its catch, according to NOAA.

While using the report to back his call for disaster relief, Kerry also said swings in the projections by the National Marine Fisheries Service make it hard for fishermen to have confidence that the projections are accurate.

Kerry was joined in his appeal for relief by Sen. Scott Brown and U.S. Reps. Barney Frank, John Tierney and William Keating.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, called for federal assistance, but did not call into question the federal agency’s preliminary assessment.

In February, Brown called for the firing of NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco because of a report that NOAA officials used a $300,000 “undercover vessel” as a “party boat,” including for a trip to Seattle for lunch where the boat stalled out in a shipping lane.

Click here for the full report.

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