The Fisheries Disaster Relief and Research Investment Act: Trying to Help Massachusetts’ Ailing Fishing Community
June 1st marked the full-on groundfishing season for Massachusetts, but this year, the day was met with little celebration. In previous years, this day marked the height of the season, when additional waters – previously restricted at the season’s opening – are made available.
However, this year their opening can do little to raise the hope (not to mention profits) of New England fishermen due to the recent slash in catch limits. The huge cut in allotted fish (77% for cod) was a devastating blow to the fishing industry in New England, especially in Gloucester.
Some attempts have been made to help lessen the damage done by these new, stringent regulations. In November 2011, Governor Deval Patrick requested aid for the state of Massachusetts and the fishing industry. Congressman John Tierney, too, has asked for disaster relief. He proposes The Fisheries Disaster Relief and Research Investment Act. The main goal as stated on the bill is “To provide exclusive funding to support fisheries and the communities that rely upon them, to clear unnecessary regulatory burdens and streamline Federal fisheries management, and for other purposes.” More specifically, what Tierney proposes (among other things) is that the money collected from tariffs of imported seafood be given to affected areas to help lessen the blow. This action, unfortunately for everyone involved, was met with little response.
The request in relief funds has caused tensions to run high in Gloucester, where people are growing concerned about how the money will be spent if it is granted at all. Some feel it should go to the city, in order to build the waterfront’s economy, while others feel it should go to the fishermen who have been directly affected by the cutbacks.
Professional fishermen have been trying to adapt: fishing for other types of fish besides the popular favorites, downsizing their fleets, selling their boats, and working with the limited resources they have left. Despite their creativity born out of necessity, there is no denying that the industry is badly hurt, which leaves many to wonder what will remain of the Massachusetts fishing community when the amount of fish has returned to what others deem an appropriate level.
How can you help? You can write to Massachusetts officials with your own stories of how this recent legislation has impacted you, or contact your local fishermen’s association to see how you can be of service. The fishing industry affects everyone in Massachusetts, whether directly or indirectly, so we all have a stake in helping our storied fleets stay afloat.