January 29, 2013

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor Monday to reiterate her call for Congress to grant disaster relief funding for fishermen in New Hampshire. Shaheen successfully urged the U.S. Department of Commerce to declare a disaster for New England fishermen and fishing communities struggling with revenue losses and the impact of fishery management decisions. The disaster declaration now authorizes Congress to provide disaster relief funding to the impacted coastal communities. Shaheen also sent a letter Monday urging the Department of Commerce to reconsider its decision to require quota reductions on Gulf of Maine cod and extend interim measures to mitigate the economic impact from the recent cod shortage.  

Below are Shaheen’s remarks, as prepared for delivery.

Mr. President, I am very disappointed that disaster relief funding for many of our nation’s fishermen has been stripped from this supplemental appropriations bill.

Fishermen in New England are facing hard times.  They are grappling with often onerous regulations designed to end overfishing and enable populations of fish to grow.  However, in spite of these restrictions, the amount of codfish in the Gulf of Maine has declined drastically. 

The problem for fishermen in my state is now one of survival.  New Hampshire fishermen, who have already seen their incomes decrease significantly in recent years, depend on cod more than fishermen from any other state in New England.  Cod accounts for more than 90 percent of our revenues. 

This is because our fishermen use small day boats and fish close to the shore; most do not have the boats or equipment to catch other deep sea species to compensate for the lack of cod.  And our fishing businesses are small, mostly owned by families who have been fishing for generations. 

Fishing in New Hampshire has a long and storied history.  In fact, New Hampshire was originally founded as a commercial colony with fishing as its primary industry.  Over the past 400 years, generations of fishermen in our state have continued this proud tradition.


Though our coastline may be short, it’s still a crucial driver of our economy today.  It generates $106 million in economic activity, supports 5,000 full- and part-time jobs in the state and provides our stores and restaurants with a local and fresh supply of fish. 

But this way of fishing – in fact, this historic way of life – will become extinct if we let it.

I welcomed the Secretary of Commerce’s decision in September to declare a federal disaster for the Northeast fishing industry for the upcoming fishing year.  But this declaration, as well as those already provided for Alaska, Mississippi, New Jersey and New York, are meaningless if Congress does not provide relief funding to these fishing communities. 

Last month, the Senate voted to appropriate $150 million in funding for these disasters.  So I am disappointed that this funding has been taken out of the bill we are considering today.  

We must provide this critical relief to fishermen and coastal economies in New Hampshire, in Alaska, in Mississippi, in New Jersey and in New York.  And we must work to ensure the long-term sustainability of these vital resources and this historic way of life.

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