SHAHEEN, AYOTTE ASK COMMERCE DEPARTMENT TO WAIVE STATE MATCHING REQUIREMENT ON BEHALF OF NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHERIES

February 20, 2014

(Washington, DC) – As part of their ongoing efforts to protect New Hampshire’s fishing industry and mitigate industry-wide economic losses, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) are calling on U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to waive the state matching requirements for federally declared disaster relief funds for the Northeast Multispecies Groundfish Fishery. In a letter sent Wednesday, Shaheen and Ayotte along with a bipartisan group of New England Senators, urged Pritzker to exercise the Secretary’s waiver authority in waiving the 25 percent match for this declared disaster.

“The Fisheries Disaster Assistance is critical to helping the industry recover from these dramatic losses,” the Senators wrote. “Our state governments continue to stretch very limited resources, and waiving the state match requirement is crucial to assisting our state and local economies in their efforts to support the fishing industry.”

The Senators added, “Fishing is an integral part of our states’ economy and heritage. While we are pleased that the fiscal year 2014 Federal Disaster Assistance will provide some relief to the fishing communities in the northeast, we are concerned that requiring a 25 percent match could severely limit the effectiveness of the program.”

Shaheen and Ayotte have led bipartisan efforts to secure disaster relief for New Hampshire fishermen impacted by rigorous catch limit regulations and consequent economic losses. The 2014 appropriations bill included $75 million, to be administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce, for fishery disaster relief to help alleviate the economic impacts associated with declared commercial fishery failures and fishery resource disasters throughout the country. The letter to Pritzker follows a meeting Shaheen, Ayotte and other New England Senators held last week with NOAA officials concerning the fishery disaster relief. 

The full text of the letter is below.

 

 

February 19, 2014

The Honorable Penny Pritzker

Secretary

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C.  20230

Dear Secretary Pritzker:

 

Congress appropriated $75 million for Fisheries Disaster Assistance in the Fiscal Year 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act. This funding is intended to mitigate the effects of declared commercial fishery failures and resource disasters, including the declared disaster for the Northeast Multispecies Groundfish Fishery. The fishing economies of our states continue to experience tremendous financial strain. We therefore urge you to exercise the waiver authority granted to you under Section 315 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) (16 U.S.C. 1802) and waive the match requirement for this declared disaster.

 

On September 13, 2012, a federal fisheries disaster was declared for Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York pursuant to Section 312(a) of the MSA and Section 308(b) of the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act (IJF). Despite strict adherence to new rigorous regulations by fishermen, key fish stocks have not rebounded, according to NOAA’s calculations. The resulting reductions in total allowable catch for certain critical groundfish stocks are having a significant and on-going impact on coastal communities, fishing families, and local economies. The Fisheries Disaster Assistance is critical to helping the industry recover from these dramatic losses. Our state governments continue to stretch very limited resources, and waiving the state match requirement is crucial to assisting our state and local economies in their efforts to support the fishing industry.

 

The Secretary’s waiver authority is clearly expressed in the MSA. Section 315(b)(4) of the Act grants the Secretary the authority to waive the matching requirements for disasters declared under Section 312 of the MSA and Section 308 of the IJF, as well as “any other provision of law under which the Federal share of the cost of any activity is limited to less than 100 percent.” Moreover, Section 315(c) allows the Secretary to determine any MSA Section 312 and IJF Section 308 commercial fishery failure to be a “catastrophic regional fishery disaster,” and further eligible for the state match waiver.  Since the Northeast Groundfish Fishery Disaster was declared under MSA Section 312 and IJF Section 308, we urge you to waive the matching requirement for Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.

 

Fishing is an integral part of our states’ economy and heritage. While we are pleased that the fiscal year 2014 Federal Disaster Assistance will provide some relief to the fishing communities in the northeast, we are concerned that requiring a 25 percent match could severely limit the effectiveness of the program. We again ask that you exercise the waiver authority granted to you in the law, and look forward to your prompt reply.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jack Reed                                        SheldonWhite House

United States Senator                       United States Senator

 

Jeanne Shaheen                                Kelly Ayotte

United States Senator                        United States Senator

 

Elizabeth Warren                                 Edward J. Markey

United States Senator                       United States Senator

 

Charles E. Schumer                           Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senator                       United States Senator

 

Richard Blumenthal                               Christopher Murphy

United States Senator                        United States Senator

 

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