SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 27, 2014

N.E. lands $33M in federal fishing aid

By Sean Horgan
Staff Writer

---- — The five coastal New England states and New York did well yesterday in the disbursement of the $75 million in federal fishing disaster funds, receiving close to $33 million.

Now it remains to be seen how Massachusetts, and Gloucester in particular, fare when the funds complete their journey to the local level.

NOAA announced the first apportioning of the federal fishery disaster funds yesterday, awarding $32,847,955 — 43.8 percent of the appropriated $75 million — to New England’s five Atlantic fishing states and New York.

There also was a cherry atop that little funding sundae: The Department of Commerce also announced that Massachusetts and other recipient states will not have to provide a 25 percent match to whatever disaster funds they accept.

“That’s good news, because it essentially means there is 25 percent more funding for the states,” NOAA Regional Director John K. Bullard said yesterday.

Bullard conceded that the funds are still months away from the hands of eligible fishermen and fishing-related businesses.

He could not offer any specifics on the formula for dividing the nearly $33 million among the six Northeast states, saying he continues to have discussions with the states’ fishery directors, as well as industry stakeholders, to determine the best manner to deliver the funds.

“We want to get the money where it needs to go,” Bullard said. “We understand the urgency. But we want to be intelligent about it.

“No amount is enough, so we don’t want to waste any of it,” he added. “Certainly, there will be direct assistance to fishermen.”

In its statement, NOAA said the states will have “broad latitude to determine the best use of the funds to meet the unique needs of their local businesses and communities.” It said that the funds may be used for activities that “restore the fishery or prevent a similar failure in the future, and to assist a fishing community affected by such failure.”

Bullard, however, said there are potential scenarios where some of the funds will not be apportioned to the states for distribution but will flow to recipients through NOAA.

“I only mention this as an example, but there have been discussions among industry representatives and the states’ fishery directors that one use for the funds could be a vessel-buyback program,” Bullard. “That would be a program that would be best administered on a regional level.”