SHAHEEN, GREGG, SHEA-PORTER CALL FOR INCREASED AID FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHERIES

September 30, 2009

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Judd Gregg and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter today called on Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to adjust proposed fisheries regulations in New England to reflect the unique needs of New Hampshire's fishing fleet, which has suffered disproportionately under previous regulations.  Shaheen, Gregg and Shea-Porter also requested that the agency's budget provide adequate resources to help New Hampshire fishermen transition to the new management system.

"As currently proposed, the new rule threatens these small businesses that contribute to the economic vitality and cultural identity of the entire Seacoast region," said the delegation in a joint statement.  "While we understand that a new management system is vital to continuing efforts to rebuild New England's groundfish stocks, it cannot overlook the unique needs and viability of New Hampshire's small-boat fleet."

Amendment 16 of the New England Fisheries Management Plan creates a new management system that is centered on fishing cooperatives, or "sectors," which are annually allocated a sustainable share of the fishery's resources to harvest. The amendment was recently approved by the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC).

The full text of the letter to Secretary Locke follows:

September 30, 2009

The Honorable Gary Locke

Secretary

Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room 5858

Washington, DC 20230

Dear Secretary Locke:

On behalf of New Hampshire's fishing industry, we have watched with keen interest as the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have taken steps to advance Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies Plan, which would move the New England groundfish industry to a sector-based catch-shares management system.  As you are aware, Amendment 16 cannot be implemented without your approval.  We urge you to consider the interests of New Hampshire's commercial fishing industry as you review Amendment 16.

We were encouraged by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco's commitment to fostering a new "climate of trust" between the National Marine Fisheries Service and New England's fishing communities.  This commitment was shown early in her tenure by her willingness to issue a scaled back interim rule for the groundfishery and recognizing the need for continued assistance to New England's fishing industry as it transitions to a new management system.

Amendment 16, however, presents unique challenges to New Hampshire's commercial fishing industry, putting its future in jeopardy.  Under previous regulations, New Hampshire's small-boat fishing industry suffered disproportionately, and we have seen our commercial fishing fleet reduced by half.  As currently proposed, Amendment 16 threatens these small businesses that contribute to the economic vitality and cultural identity of the entire Seacoast region.  While we understand that a new management system is vital to continuing efforts to rebuild New England's groundfish stocks, it cannot overlook the unique needs and economic viability of New Hampshire's small-boat fleet.

As recently highlighted in a letter to you from NEFMC Council Member David Goethel, the allocation plan of Amendment 16 provided to the two existing sectors and recreational fishermen a more favorable catch share allocation by using different baselines for catch history.  We are concerned that the use of different baselines would reinforce prior allocation decisions that already drastically reduced the size of New Hampshire's commercial fishing fleet.  As you know, Sections 302(a)(4) and 302(a)(14) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act ensure fair and equitable distribution among states and commercial, recreational, and charter fishing sectors.  As a result, Sections 4.3.3.3.4 and 4.3.5 of Amendment 16, which disadvantage certain commercial fishermen, do not meet the standards set by Magnuson-Stevens.  We urge you to remand these sections to NEFMC for reconsideration with instructions to ensure that all sectors receive a fair allocation.

We also request that NOAA provides the New Hampshire groundfish industry and our offices with further information about the short-term and long-term costs associated with implementation of the new management system.  As you prepare your FY2011 budget request, we hope you will recognize the significant challenges this transition to a new management system will create for all New England fishermen, especially boats in New Hampshire with small quotas.  We urge you to include adequate funding to achieve a successful management system while also ensuring the future viability of New Hampshire's groundfish industry. 

As you move forward with this rulemaking, we hope NOAA will meet with the New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen's Association and state stakeholders to hear their important perspective on the future of the New England groundfishery.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.  We look forward to working with you to ensure the viability of both New England groundfish stocks as well as the commercial fishing industry in New Hampshire.

Sincerely,

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Senator Judd Gregg

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter

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