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(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today applauded the decision by the United States Department of Commerce to declare a disaster for the Northeast commercial fishing industry. This decision will allow disaster relief to be provided for fishermen and fishing communities struggling with revenue losses and the impact of fishery management decisions.

Shaheen sent a letter to then-Commerce Secretary John Bryson in February urging the department to declare a disaster in response to declining cod populations and regional management decisions that have caused economic hardship for fishermen.

“The disaster declaration announced today by the United States Department of Commerce is welcome news for New Hampshire’s fishermen who have seen their income decline drastically in recent years,” Shaheen said. “Fishing in New Hampshire is one of the Granite State’s oldest industries, and its survival is crucial to preserving jobs in our coastal communities. I will work to ensure that our fishermen receive much-needed economic relief that also invests in the long-term health of our state’s fishery.”

A 2011 study carried out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the cod population in the Gulf of Maine had fallen to dangerously low levels. Though catch limits have been put in place to protect this population, recent data shows that several key fish stocks are not rebuilding. The loss of resources for New England fishing communities has threatened the livelihood of fishermen throughout the region.

The letter sent by Senator Shaheen to the U.S. Department of Commerce is below:

February 2, 2012

The Honorable John Bryson


U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20230

The Honorable Jane Lubchenco


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Room 5128

1401 Constitution Avenue N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Secretary Bryson and Administrator Lubchenco:

We write to urge you to quickly approve Governor John Lynch’s request for a disaster declaration and assistance for fishing communities in New Hampshire.  The state’s request and a recent report from the Department of Commerce show beyond a shadow of a doubt that New Hampshire’s fishing communities have been unduly impacted by regional fisheries management decisions, resulting in severe revenue and job losses in the industry.  It is imperative that you act to address the economic hardships that have put New Hampshire’s fishing fleet in jeopardy.

While fishermen in other states have seen their revenues stay steady or even increase under Amendment 16, the allocation system implemented by the New England Fisheries Management Council has resulted in severe losses of revenue for New Hampshire fishermen.  The Department of Commerce’s 2010 report on the performance of the Northeast groundfishery showed that New Hampshire was the only state from Maine to New Jersey experiencing a decrease in nominal landings of all species.  We have seen a drastic 39 percent decline in the nominal value of landings of groundfish by New Hampshire-based vessels.  The resulting dramatic decrease in revenues has jeopardized our fishermen’s ability to operate their businesses and earn a living.

This revenue reduction has also endangered the shore-side infrastructure on which our fishermen rely to conduct business.  Yankee’s Fishermen Cooperative, the state’s only resident dockside support that meets the needs of the New Hampshire fishing community, experienced a 55 percent reduction in groundfish landings between 2009 and 2010.  It is clear that the reduction in landings and revenue has harmed important components of the Seacoast region’s infrastructure.

Given the severity of the current situation and the real possibility of significantly lower catch levels for Gulf of Maine cod in the upcoming fishing season, we believe it is crucial that you take immediate action to respond to the serious economic harm that is disproportionately borne by New Hampshire fishermen. 

Thank you for your consideration of this important request.  We remain committed to preserving natural resources while ensuring the economic vitality and survival of New Hampshire’s fishing fleet.  We look forward to your reply.