2/26/2014 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced today that New England fishermen will be among the beneficiaries of $32.84 million in disaster relief funding included in the Fiscal Year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill.  The Rhode Island delegation is a strong advocate for the fishing and marine trades industries, last fall joining a coalition of thirty-eight members of Congress that successfully urged House and Senate leadership to include $75 million in fisheries disaster relief in the fiscal year 2014 Appropriations bill.

The funds are being allocated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) among several declared national fishery disasters from 2012 and 2013, including New England groundfish; Alaska and Washington State salmon; Mississippi crab and oyster; Florida oyster; and American Samoa tsunami.  The federal funds are being allocated for each disaster by NOAA based on commercial fisheries economic losses.  Now that each declared disaster region has received its allocation, Rhode Island’s share will be determined by NOAA and other officials based on losses and data provided by the state and fishermen.

Earlier this month, Reed and Whitehouse sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker urging the Obama Administration to waive the 25% non-federal matching requirements for federally declared disaster relief funds for the Northeast Multispecies Groundfish Fishery.  That request to waive the required match funds was granted. 

“This is another positive step toward providing some much needed relief to our hardworking fishermen.  Fishing is vital to our economy and I am pleased these funds will soon flow to our fishermen and fishing communities.  I will continue working to ensure this money gets distributed quickly, directly, and effectively to help sustain this important industry for the long-term,” said Reed, a member of the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee who led the bipartisan effort along with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to include this emergency funding in the 2014 Appropriations bill.

“This funding is an important down payment on aid to Rhode Island fishermen who are hurting in the wake of these disasters,” said Whitehouse, a member of both the Senate Budget and Environment and Public Works Committees.  “We worked hard to encourage the agency to waive the matching requirement.  Now it is in the hands of the governors to allocate among the states the money we have obtained.”

“I am pleased to see more than $32 million of the $75 million in disaster relief directed to the northeast, where marine trade industries represent a significant sector in our economy,” said Langevin. “Rhode Island fishermen already face many challenges, so it is crucial that we support them as they rebuild in the wake of resource disasters.”

“Rhode Island fishermen have struggled with reduced stocks and tighter limits, which have caused financial hardship on our waterfront and state economy,” said Cicilline.  “These funds will provide much needed assistance and I will continue fighting to ensure Rhode Island’s fishing industry quickly receives the support it needs to better weather the devastating storm this fisheries disaster has caused.”

The funds will be used for mitigating the effects of commercial fishery failures and resource disasters.  A federal fisheries disaster was declared for Rhode Island by the U.S. Department of Commerce in the 2013 season.