SHAHEEN URGES NOAA TO WEIGH LOCAL IMPACT OF POTENTIAL FISHERY BUYBACK AND BUYOUT PROGRAMS

June 09, 2014

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is voicing concern to federal officials on the potentially negative impact a buyout or buyback program could have on New Hampshire fisherman under a compromise federal fishery disaster relief plan. In a letter sent today to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Shaheen urges the agency to “consider local input from all sectors of the industry” out of concern for the potentially detrimental impact of a federal buyout or industry-funded buyback program, which are intended to reduce fishing capacity through direct purchase.

“Fishing is one of New Hampshire’s oldest industries and it retains an important place in our state’s economy,” Shaheen said. “We need to make sure this industry remains viable and emerges strong after the difficulties our fishermen have been facing. The federal fishery disaster relief plan will help provide immediate relief, however, we need to be planning for long-term investments in the industry’s future and be cautious of programs that could diminish the fishing industry further.”

Shaheen has been a leader in the bipartisan effort to secure $75 million in disaster relief resources for affected fishing communities in several regions of the country, including $32.8 million in federal fishery disaster funds for New England where the fishing industry has been struggling under onerous catch limit regulations and consequent economic losses. Under the compromise framework allocating $32.8 million toward New England fisheries, one-third of the funds are to be used in developing a federally funded buyout or industry-funded buyback with the other two-thirds being split among New England states and being used for direct assistance. New Hampshire will receive more than $2 million in funds with more than $900,000 going to direct assistance for New Hampshire fishermen and more than $1.1 million to be used at the state’s discretion.

The full text of Shaheen’s letter is below.

June 9, 2014

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan

Administrator

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

1401 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Dr. Sullivan,

Thank you for your work to reach a compromise in New England regarding the distribution of the region’s fishery disaster funding.  I also want to thank you for the transparency and openness with which your agency conducted this process and for your thorough engagement of local stakeholders.

This compromise plan will allow coastal communities in my state and across the region to see immediate benefits.  It provides states with the autonomy to make individual decisions about the unique needs within their own borders while permitting time for careful consideration of the design of any federal buyout or industry-funded buyback program.

The specific details and design of the buyout or buyback program will significantly determine its effect on the region.  It is vital that the program contain safeguards that prevent the acceleration of industry consolidation and preserve the diversity of our fishing fleet.  New Hampshire has already seen the dramatic decline of our fishing industry in recent years, with fewer than 20 vessels actively fishing in 2013.  I am concerned that a buyout or buyback could reduce the industry in my state even further and that the re-distribution process of remaining fishing quota could disadvantage small boat New Hampshire fishermen.

I urge you to continue to consider local input from all sectors of the industry in this process and to strive to ensure the outcome fully protects the sustainability of the industry in my state and across the region.

I appreciate your thorough attention to this issue. 

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator