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DMR Home > Grounfish Relief 2014

Maine to Receive More Than $2 Million in Groundfish Disaster Relief Funds

Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher today announced plans to move forward with the distribution of $2.3 million to Maine’s groundfish fleet, which is the state’s portion of the $32.8 million in federal disaster money to the New England groundfish industry.

“Maine’s groundfishermen have stayed within their catch limits for years, but have suffered the consequences of inflexible federal regulations,” said Maine Governor Paul R. LePage. “This fishery, once vibrant in Maine, is struggling to survive and its ability to do so is critical to preservation of our coastal economy and important shore side infrastructure in Portland. I am glad that this economic relief will give Maine fishermen the flexibility to make an investment in their future because our fishermen want a hand up, not a hand out.”

“With all that is going on in the nation and the world, it is difficult to get Washington to focus on fisheries issues,” said Commissioner Keliher. “I am grateful for the tremendous work our Congressional delegation has done to secure this disaster relief, particularly Senator Collins and her staff, as well as for their support of Maine’s priorities as we worked with other states in the region to develop a plan for how the funding will be allocated.”

State fishery directors from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York are all moving forward with plans to distribute their share of the funds.

“The agreement reached by the State directors is a compromise, and I am glad that it incorporates parts of the broadly supported industry proposal,” said Commissioner Keliher. “In particular, setting some of the money aside will give the industry an opportunity to consider how they could use a portion of this federal relief to provide some long-term economic benefit to the fleet, which was a priority for Maine fishermen. My staff and I will be working closely with our industry members here to determine how to use the state’s discretionary funds, as well.”

These funds are a portion of the $75 million allocated by U.S. Congress as part of its Fiscal 2014 budget to help with six fishery disasters. In 2012, the Secretary of Commerce declared one of these fishery disasters to be the result of significant quota cuts anticipated for key New England groundfish stocks in the 2013 fishing year. Under federal fisheries law, the Commerce Secretary can declare a fishery disaster, which makes it possible for Congress to appropriate funds to provide economic assistance to fishing businesses and communities, including fishermen, affected by a disaster and to support other activities addressing the disaster.

In this agreed upon framework for the groundfish fishery, the six states would distribute roughly $11 million to each of three program categories. One-third would be allocated for direct assistance, one-third to be split among the states and used at their discretion, and one-third to be held back for development of a federally funded buyout or industry-funded buyback.
Direct Assistance: Using an industry recommended formula, direct assistance will be distributed equally to 336 holders of permits in the Northeast multispecies fishery who landed at least 5,000 pounds of groundfish in any one of the past four years (2010-2013). Qualified permit holders from each of the affected states would each receive a check for approximately $32,000. In Maine, there are approximately 50 vessels that meet this criterion.

State-Specific Grants: States would split a second third of the total available monies based on an agreed-to formula that considers groundfish revenue losses affecting each state in recent years, with a slight adjustment to ensure that no state receives less than $250,000. Under the formula, Maine will receive approximately $636,886. The Maine Department of Marine Resources will hold an initial meeting with Maine’s groundfish industry on June 18 in Portland to solicit input on a plan for distributing the funds and will submit a plan to NOAA for approval. According to the agreement, states will have some flexibility to determine the most appropriate way to address the unique and varied needs of their fishing communities. Possible spending plans could include using the monies to assist recreational fishermen, commercial vessel crew members, shore-based infrastructure, and cooperative research.

Vessel buyout/buyback: NOAA, state directors, and the fishing industry would use the remaining monies to develop either a government funded buyout program or an industry-funded buyback program. This aspect of the framework is expected to take longer to develop so funds would be held in reserve until needed.

NOAA plans to work closely with the states to complete required reviews of state grant applications and spend plans for both the direct assistance grants and the state grants to distribute this portion of the funds as quickly as possible. Typically, there is a two- to three-month review to ensure statutory and grant requirements are addressed before the funds can be made available to the recipient. For these two components of the Framework, states would receive a the following allocations: Connecticut: $250,000; Massachusetts: $14,512,618; Maine: $2,260,034; New Hampshire: $2,039,825; New York: $814,012; Rhode Island: $1,938,617